Affordable Care Act contraception mandate is at the center of an all new Supreme Court debate.
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the current administration can let employers limit female workers’ access to free contraception under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The issue has resurfaced with all new concerns.
In March 2010, President Barack Obama signed off on the act, which included a clause mandating coverage of preventive health services and screenings for women. The following year, the Obama administration decided to require employers and insurance providers to offer women contraception coverage at no cost. Groups exempt from the requirement included “churches, temples and mosques.” However, nonprofit groups like schools and hospitals affiliated with religious organizations were not exempt.
Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said the “Trump administration’s approach was unlawful.” She added, “Allowing employers and universities to use their religious beliefs to block employees’ and students’ birth-control coverage isn’t religious liberty – it’s discrimination. The Trump administration’s attempt to take away people’s insurance coverage for contraception is one of the administration’s many attacks on access to abortion and contraception.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, said the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns, should not be forced to provide coverage that contradicts the group members’ faith. She stated, “The Little Sisters of the Poor simply want to carry out their mission of love for the elderly, peaceably and in accordance with their deeply-held beliefs. Instead they have been threatened with crushing fines and repeatedly dragged to court to defend themselves. President Trump took strong steps to put this nonsense to an end and his administration’s rule should be upheld.”
Taking the side of religious employers, Trump said the law mandating contraception coverage can impose a “substantial burden on the exercise of religion” and “employers should not be bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.” The new regulations also included an exception for employers “with sincerely held moral convictions opposed to coverage of some or all contraceptive or sterilization methods.”
In May, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, blocked the regulations, issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction. Judge Patty Shwartz wrote for the panel, “Cost is a significant barrier to contraceptive use and access. The most effective forms of contraceptives are the most expensive. After the ACA removed cost barriers, women switched to the more effective and expensive methods of contraception.”
In asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal in the new case, Trump v. Pennsylvania, No. 19-454, the administration said, “the new exceptions were authorized by the health care law and required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
Attorneys for the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey responded that the administration “lacked statutory authority to issue the regulations and had not followed proper administrative procedures.”
The court also agreed to hear a second appeal from Little Sisters of the Poor in Little Sister of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, No. 19-431. Both cases will be consolidated for a single hour of argument sometime mid-year.