Next Month, Supreme Court Will Hear Zubik v. Burwell, Yet Another Challenge to Health Reform Law’s Birth Control Policy; Today, Sens. Franken and Murray Outline Argument for Protecting Women’s Access to Affordable Birth Control
WASHINGTON, D.C. [02/16/2016]—Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led a group of more than 30 Democratic Senators in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on the need to protect women’s access to affordable birth control. The brief was filed ahead of next month’s arguments in the consolidated cases of Zubik v. Burwell, yet another attempt by some employers to interfere with women’s access to health care by denying the women and their families insurance coverage for birth control.
You can read the full brief by clicking here.
Right now, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance plans to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control, without any out-of-pocket costs. Millions of women are already benefiting from this provision. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and the law also allows some employers who have cited religious objections to “opt-out” of offering health insurance plans that cover contraception.
Nonetheless, some employers want to further deny their workers access to insurance coverage of birth control. In Zubik v. Burwell, these employers have challenged the ACA’s birth control policy in court, arguing that even the “opt-out” process violates their religious beliefs. In the Senators’ amicus brief, they argue that the policy—and its “opt-out” process—strikes the right balance between respecting religious liberty and ensuring that the women who work for these employers are able to receive coverage of birth control. The Senators also warn that striking down the policy may open the floodgates to even more challenges to public health and anti-discrimination laws.
“Access to affordable birth control has a powerful effect on the decisions that women and families make every single day—decisions about whether to start a new job, start a family, or how much a family can afford to save for college,” said Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “When we passed the health reform law, we helped ensure that women can receive birth control coverage through their insurance and without a copay. But that achievement has been—and continues to be—under attack, and next month, the Supreme Court will hear yet another challenge to women’s access to birth control. Our amicus brief lays out to the Court why the wrong decision in this case will hurt women’s health, equality, and economic security.”
“When we passed health care reform our goal was to expand access to affordable health care for all—and a fundamental part of that was making sure that in the 21st century, a woman’s insurance would cover her birth control without a copay,” said Senator Murray, ranking member of the Senate Health Committee. “As a result of the Affordable Care Act, millions of women are more empowered today to make their own decisions about their own health care, and they don’t want to go backward. The Supreme Court should rule in favor of protecting women’s access to the critical health care services they need.”
The bicameral amicus brief was filed with the Supreme Court today and was signed by 33 Senators and 90 members of the House of Representatives who were part of Congressional passage of the ACA. Other Senate signers include Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N. Mex.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Sen. Franken has long been a supporter of women’s health. He previously fought back against other legal challenges to the ACA’s birth control policy to make sure that women in Minnesota who have benefited from coverage of preventive health care services—including contraception—can continue to receive preventive health services without a copay through their insurance. He also cosponsored Sen. Murray’s Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, which would prevent employers from interfering in their employees’ decisions about contraception.