The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has cleared two major hurdles in the recent past: the Supreme Court ruling on constitutionality and the reelection of President Obama. However, there is a very good chance that the Supreme Court has not seen the last of the health care reform law. Despite the bill’s legal successes in the past, there are (at publication) more than 35 different cases on file against the contraception mandate in the bill filed by individual companies and religious organizations.
Thanks to the health care law, insurance plans are required to cover birth control and other women’s preventive health services with no co-payments or deductibles at the start of their next plan year. For proponents of the bill, this means more health plans come under the law’s reach, and that more women will be able to keep their wallets closed when they pick up their birth control.
Proponents further assert that gender equality means women having complete control over their reproductive lives. However, some organizations do not believe funding such services align with their organizational missions. Most filing amicus briefs are using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it’s unanimous support by the Supreme Court, to say that the mandate violates religious organizations right to not pay for contraception.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires that the federal “government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person 1. Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and 2. Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
Those in support of the mandate, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), believe that the mandate will be upheld. The ACLU specifically states in their amicus brief that the plaintiffs are trying to “discriminate against women and deny them benefits because of [the employer’s] religious beliefs.”
No matter where a woman falls in her beliefs about what the health reform bill should and should not require, it is clear that the Affordable Care Act still has many hurdles before full implementation. For more information about the impact of these state-level decisions on your contraception and access to reproductive health care, contact your local Congressional leaders and employer mission statements.