WASHINGTON—The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) on Tuesday filed an amicus brief supporting the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control benefit, urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law. The brief, joined by 17 of the nation’s leading public health and rights organizations and advocates for communities of color, placed the benefit squarely within accepted medical practice and decades of federal law, countering arguments from the companies opposing the benefit.
“No one should stand between a woman and her decision to use birth control. Yet, two for-profit companies are asking the Supreme Court to allow them to do just that,” said Susan Berke Fogel, NHeLP director of reproductive health. “These companies are attempting to interfere in their employees’ lives in an unprecedented way, the result of which would be disastrous and undermine women’s health.”
Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts store, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinetmaker, are suing the federal government over the law’s requirement that insurance plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptives—a benefit 27 million women have access to. They join more than 40 other for-profit businesses that have attacked the provision.
“Decades of federal policies supporting contraception and established medical standards of care are well-founded: birth control is essential to women’s health,” said Fogel.
The brief highlights medical standards of care that are based on patient need and science. Major medical academies in the U.S. and Western Europe maintain that birth control is an essential part of women’s health care. Contraception is crucial not only to planning pregnancies, but for women managing chronic diseases—conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and lupus, which disproportionately afflict women of color.
The ACA’s requirement that nearly all insurance plans cover contraceptives with no out-of-pocket cost is needed to eliminate disparities among low-income women and women of color who have higher rates of unintended pregnancy and worse maternal and birth outcomes than other women. Prior to the law, out-of-pocket costs for birth control could run as high as $600 a year, putting reliable methods out of reach for many women.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius on March 25.
NHeLP is a leader on the issue of groups attempting to limit access to health care based on ideological or political claims, commonly known as health-care refusals. NHeLP’s groundbreaking report, Health Care Refusals: Undermining Quality Care for Women has been cited by leading health authorities and policy makers. The cases challenging the ACA’s birth control benefit are a threat to women’s health and good medical practice, as outlined by Susan Berke Fogel in “Up at the Supreme Court: Bosses Weigh in on Your Contraception.”
The following organizations joined NHeLP’s brief:
American Public Health Association, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Women’s Health Network, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Forward Together, National Hispanic Medical Association, IPAS, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), HIV Law Project, Christie’s Place, National Women and AIDS Collective, California Women’s Law Center and Housing Works.
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