WASHINGTON—Days before the Supreme Court again takes up the Affordable Care Act, the nation's top legal minds, physicians and policy experts held a briefing on where the law's contraceptive coverage requirement fits in federal law and policy and potential ramifications.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, both for-profit businesses, are challenging the requirement that most health insurance plans cover the full range of contraceptive methods and services without any out-of-pocket costs to the patient.
“No one—least of all a woman’s boss—should stand between a woman and her health care,” said Susan Berke Fogel, NHeLP director of reproductive health. “The cases run afoul of decades of federal laws and policies and would completely undermine established medical standards of care.”
Birth control is essential to women’s health and well-being and has been instrumental in allowing women to plan their families and economic futures. Yet, according to Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, there is an “ideological onslaught from anti-contraception activists who are challenging facts that should be self-evident. Contraception is distinct from abortion. Contraceptive methods aren’t interchangeable. And cost and lack of method choice can interfere with a woman’s ability to use the method most appropriate for her.”
“As an ob-gyn, I know firsthand about the essential role that contraceptives play in women’s health,” said Dr. Hal C. Lawrence, III, executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Decisions about family planning, including contraceptives, should be between a woman and her trusted physician – not her boss. Contraception is part of comprehensive care for women and must not be treated differently than other preventive services.”
The outcome of the cases, should the Supreme Court rule in the businesses’ favor, could have a disproportionate impact on low-income women and women of color, who are more likely to experience unintended pregnancy.
“These cases threaten to dismantle a critical part of the ACA, reversing important gains for Latina health and making it harder for Latinas to plan and space our families, said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. What the Latina community needs is affordable coverage including birth control, not bosses in the bedroom.”
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 25, 2014.
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