WASHINGTON — The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) has filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the all-important women’s health case, Zubik v. Burwell. This case will decide whether non-profit employers are able to deny their employees access to contraceptive services on religious grounds. NHeLP’s brief, joined by American Public Health Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Women’s Health Network, Ipas, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Christie’s Place, urges the Court to uphold the contraceptive coverage requirements contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and meant to ensure that all women with employer-sponsored insurance have easy and affordable access to the full range of contraceptive services.
“The ACA seeks to increase access to health care by removing cost-barriers,” said Dipti Singh, NHeLP reproductive health attorney and author of the brief. “Health insurance coverage of contraception–critical to the health and well-being of women–without cost-sharing is essential to achieving that goal.”
Under federal rules, the employers before the Court are already allowed to opt-out of offering health insurance plans that cover contraception. The employers before the Court are still unsatisfied. They argue that the federal rule that allows them to opt-out, but still ensures that their employees have access to contraception without cost-sharing, violates their religious beliefs.
“The contraceptive coverage requirement removes financial barriers that prevent too many women from accessing contraception,” said Susan Berke Fogel, NHeLP’s director of reproductive health. “Allowing employers to make reproductive decisions for their employees, robs women of dignity and control over their own lives.”
“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not entitle employers to impose their own religious beliefs on their employees,” said Elizabeth G. Taylor, executive director of NHeLP. “The ACA is intended to improve people’s health, and to deny contraceptive coverage to women who work for non-profit employers is to exclude them from critical health benefits and put some women’s health at risk.”
NHeLP’s brief explains that cost is a well-documented barrier to health care access, including contraception–a barrier that Congress sought to remove through the ACA. The brief further explains that the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement is one of many interconnected government strategies that must work together to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their employer or how they receive their insurance coverage, can access the health care services they need.
The Supreme Court will hear the case on March 23.
The amicus brief can be found here.