For Immediate Release: October 6, 2017
Contact: Nicholas Little, Legal Director
firstname.lastname@example.org - (202) 734-6494
The Center for Inquiry condemned the new rules announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, dramatically curtailing the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Mandate.
Under the new rules, any employer may claim an exemption to the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage without co-payment, whether the employer’s objection is based on religious grounds or any other moral reasoning. This fundamentally undercuts the purpose and operation of the Contraceptive Mandate, a rule that was effective in ensuring broad access to reproductive health care for women.
The Contraceptive Mandate, a key part of the Obama administration’s signature health care reform, required health insurance to cover FDA-approved methods of contraception without co-payment by the insured party. In doing so, it significantly increased availability of critical reproductive health insurance to women across America, who, previously, had often been compelled to pay significant out-of-pocket costs to access such essential care.
Though the prior administration granted broad exemptions — permitting houses of worship to avoid the requirement altogether, while offering religiously affiliated groups the right to sign a waiver whereby the insurance company itself would have to provide the co-payment-free coverage — religious groups immediately and consistently challenged the law as an attack on their religious freedoms. Two cases were heard by the Supreme Court on this issue. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Court ruled that private corporations could exercise religious freedom rights, and were entitled to claim an exemption to the law. In Zubik v Burwell, religious non-profits challenged their exemption, claiming that having to sign a letter informing the government of their wish to be exempted from the mandate itself violated their religious freedoms. The deadlocked, eight-person Supreme Court remanded the case back to allow the parties to seek a workable accommodation.
Limiting contraception coverage has long been the objective of religious right groups. The religious right provided President Trump with a significant part of his support in the election. “This represents a shocking step backwards in American health care,” said Nick Little, Vice President and General Counsel of the Center for Inquiry. “At the behest of their allies in the religious right, the President and this Administration have determined that a woman’s access to affordable, essential health care must be subordinated to the religious whims of her employer.”
The Center for Inquiry submitted amicus briefs in both the Hobby Lobby and Zubik cases, and will continue to seek to defend broad, affordable access to contraception and other reproductive health care.
Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, added, “On these grounds what’s to stop the Trump Administration allowing employers to exclude blood transfusions from insurance coverage because Jehovah’s Witnesses object? Medical insurance is a benefit of employment. Giving employers the ability to dictate those benefits on religious grounds draws employees into their employer’s religion as a condition of employment. This is bad for women and a pluralistic society.”