WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 30, 2014) — The Supreme Court ruled against women and their families with a decision that employers similar to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties do not have to follow the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that insurance companies cover contraception. The Court held that doing so would violate the religious beliefs held by these individual owners.
“This unprecedented interference puts a woman’s health in the hands of her boss and politics,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and chief executive officer of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “We are deeply troubled by today’s decision which puts women’s health at risk by imposing a barrier to basic health care for women at certain employers.”
Unplanned pregnancies present a major public health challenge and have a serious impact on women and children, often coupled with delayed prenatal care, preterm birth and low birth weight. Low-income women and women of color are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, leading to health disparities. Expanding access to contraception– by removing cost barriers—is essential to eliminating these racial, ethnic and gender disparities in health and health care.
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations.
“Today’s decision from the Supreme Court is an attack on the rights of women and sets a dangerous new standard for corporate personhood that I completely reject,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4). “All women deserve the right to make their own decisions about their health, without the intrusion of their employer’s views or beliefs. My commitment is to find every legislative avenue available to reverse this ruling which is an attack on women and sound medical science.”
Congresswoman Betty McCollum serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She is Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (MN-5) released a statement to call the decision a step backwards for women’s rights in America. The Roberts’ Court consistently rules in favor of corporations and today’s decision allows executives to interfere with a woman’s health care decisions, they said.
“A woman’s personal health choices, including family planning, are not her boss’ business,” they said. “Denial of contraceptive coverage will require women to pay more for health care—nearly 60% of women who use birth control cite non-contraceptive reasons for taking it.
“While the ruling accepts the importance of other medical care screenings, it neglects the importance of family planning and the rights of women to make choices without interference from employers,” they added. “Employee health decisions should never be made by corporate executives, no matter what the circumstance.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, said decision protects the religious freedom that is guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment, and is grateful the Court ruled on the side of liberty.
“The central issue of this case was whether the federal government can coerce Americans to violate their deeply held religious beliefs, and thankfully the Court has upheld the proper limits on the government’s power,” Reince said.
“The fact that Americans had to bring this case in the first place reveals once again just how intrusive ObamaCare is,” he added. “It’s a misguided one-size-fits-all policy that not only failed to fix our healthcare system but has trampled on our Constitutional rights. Americans deserve a healthcare system that allows them to make the right choices for themselves, gives them more freedom, and comes nowhere close to encroaching on our First Amendment rights.”
DNC Chairman Ken Martin, said the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions that will negatively impact the lives of Americans.
“After gains made under the Affordable Care Act for women’s health care, the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby moves women’s decisions about their reproductive health backward,” Martin said. “For-profit employers can now deny access to certain health care benefits based on their personal beliefs. This is a true setback for women.
“The Harris v. Quinn decision diminishes the ability of unions to work with American workers,” he added. “It’s devastating to think that the gains for wages, benefits and working conditions made by unions during the last century will be jeopardized.
“The decisions today are just two more examples of how Republicans oppose not only women’s rights, but the rights of working men and women,” Martin said. “Elections have consequences and in November voters need to know that only by electing Democrats will women and families have advocates working on their behalf.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and Asian American Advancing Justice – AAJC condemn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing for-profit companies to deny female employees access to affordable contraceptive coverage. The ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell threatens to diminish the well-being and economic opportunities of many Asian American women, and reverses the progress of health care reform.
“We oppose the Court’s decision because providing contraceptive coverage to women as preventive health care advances a compelling interest for our communities,” said Doreena Wong, director of the Health Access Project at Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Asian American women are already much less likely to use contraceptives than women in other minority groups due to the lack of information about reproductive health and cultural taboos against conversations about sexual activity. Increased access to contraceptive services through group health plans erode some of these barriers and help a great many women, especially those with prior health conditions that would place them at high risk if they get pregnant. Women employed by companies whose owners have religious objections to birth control now will have their employers’ religious views imposed on them unfairly.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) originally required all employers, except religious employers, to include contraceptive coverage at no cost in its employee health insurance plans. The Court’s 5-4 decision, issued by Justice Alito, now allows “closely held” for-profit employers to exempt themselves from this requirement based on the religious beliefs of their owners. This exemption undermines the two chief policy goals of the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate: to promote public health and further gender equality.
“Allowing employers to dictate their female employees’ reproductive choices constricts their ability to make important and intensely personal life decisions,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – AAJC. “In this case, when bosses are allowed to impose their religious beliefs in the workplace, female workers have to suffer the consequences. These include higher health care costs and lost economic opportunities associated with unintended pregnancies.”
The cases are two separate lawsuits consolidated by the Court. In January, Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and Advancing Justice – AAJC joined the National Health Law Program’s amicus brief to support the government’s defense of the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate. The brief addressed the standards of medical care and existing federal laws that support the use and coverage of preventive reproductive health services. Justice Ginsberg, who characterized the majority ruling as one of “startling breadth,” cited the amicus brief in her dissent.