Supreme Court Allows Employers to Cut Birth Control Coverage for Religious or Moral Objections
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that employers and universities can cut birth control coverage in their insurance plans based on religious or moral objections.
The 7 to 2 ruling sided in favor of the Trump administration, who had created a new rule in 2018 that employers could opt out of the Affordable Care Act requirement to provide free birth control options for almost all health insurance plans.
The decision could cause 70,000 to 126,000 women to lose their insurance-covered birth control, based on government estimates, including women who need birth control for health conditions like endometriosis.
“We hold that the [Trump administration] had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, which also included Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The case now goes back to a lower court, and ends the temporary injunction that stopped the Trump administration from implementing the rule.
Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer agreed with the decision to send the case back to the lower court, but did not join the majority opinion. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the two dissenting votes.
"Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree," Ginsburg wrote in the minority opinion.
The original Affordable Care Act rule, from 2011, automatically exempted churches and synagogues from providing access to free birth control to their employees, but religiously-affiliated universities, non-profits, hospitals and other businesses had to notify the government or their insurance companies before they could opt out. Their insurance companies could then offer free birth control options to employees separate from their company’s health care plan.
When President Donald Trump came into office, however, his administration created the rule that these organizations could opt out of providing free birth control coverage without reporting their decision. Two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sued over the rule, which stopped it from going into effect. The Trump administration, along with a charity called Little Sisters of the Poor, were the defendants in two court cases in favor of the rule.
The Supreme Court decision Wednesday said that they believe the Trump administration’s rule allowing employers to opt out without notice is a reasonable compromise between church and state.
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