The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning in favor of two corporations who argued that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for their employees’ birth control (as required by the Affordable Care Act) because of the business owners’ personal religious beliefs. The Court said that when corporations are “closely held” by a family or a small number of people, and it can be shown that the owners operate the business consistently with those religious beliefs, then the corporations can be exempted from federal laws that burden those religious beliefs.
How does this impact California? While we are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision there is better news for California regarding the challenge to Obamacare’s birth control mandate.
First of all, this decision does NOT strike down the contraceptive mandate for most women. Employers must provide coverage of contraceptives without co-pays, including health plans within Covered California.
Current California law, the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act, protects access to contraception in the state for most individuals. Signed into law by Gray Davis 1999, the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act ensures access to birth control through state-regulated employer health plans.
The CA law allows for a narrow exclusion for religious employers such as churches and there is NO exclusion for insurers of privately held, for-profit employers - therefore employees who work for those companies will still have contraceptive coverage but they may have to pay already-established co-pays. The narrow exclusion in the California Contraceptive Equity Act was challenged and upheld by the California Supreme Court in the Catholic Charities case. Nothing in today’s decision undermines that - the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is federal law that does NOT trump state law.
California's Contraceptive Equity Act does not apply to employers who self-insure health coverage. If a company is self-insured, they are not required to provide contraceptive coverage.
California's Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act was important for eliminating barriers to birth control access and remains important in making CA a national leader in preventing untended pregnancy. Today's SCOTUS decision does not strike down the contraceptive mandate for most women. However those affected will have pay as much as $800 a year out of pocket for birth control. That’s why the mandate is so important to women’s health. There are 26 states with laws similar to the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act. Source: National Conference of State Legislatures.
We’re deeply disappointed and troubled that some bosses will be able to interfere with their employees’ access to birth control. Despite this ruling, the birth control benefit remains in place and millions of women will still get no-copay birth control because of it.
A bill currently in the California Legislature, SB 1053 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, builds upon California's current Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act. If passed it will ensure that women get access to a full range of contraceptive services without cost-sharing.
It’s unbelievable that we are still fighting for access to birth control in 2014, with some politicians who want to get rid of the birth control benefit completely. Join the fight - sign up for our email list to stay informed on ways you can take action and get involved.
Statements from California Leadership
|“This is not the principle of religious freedom intended by those who founded our nation and it goes against American's belief in the right of everyone to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace. I am profoundly disturbed by today's ruling.” - California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins|
|“It is unbelievable that in 2014, we’re still fighting about whether women should have access to birth control. California has been a pioneer, requiring family planning access since 1999.” - Senate President pro Tempore-elect Kevin de León|
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 30 million women nationally are already eligible for this benefit. When the law is fully implemented, 47 million women nationally will have access to no-copay birth control thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Thanks to the birth control benefit, women already have saved $483 million in the last year alone. Studies also show that women who receive birth control with no co-pay or at a reduced cost are able to avoid more than two million unplanned pregnancies each year, which also reduces the need for abortion. It’s not surprising that the public overwhelmingly supports the birth control benefit by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Planned Parenthood has several resources, including a white paper and animated whiteboard video that provide background on the birth control benefit and what’s at stake with the Supreme Court case. A “Birth Control: We All Benefit” booklet includes 50 inspiring stories from women across the United States.
Birth control is tremendously important to women for all kinds of reasons, including the need to control certain medical conditions and to plan our families. Under the birth control benefit, women have access to this important preventive care at no cost.
- The wide availability of birth control has been an enormous benefit for countless women and their families — enabling them to support themselves financially, complete their education, and plan their families and have children when they’re ready.
- Virtually all (99 percent) American women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some time.
- A 2010 survey found that more than a third of female voters have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point in their lives, and as a result, used birth control inconsistently. This isn’t surprising considering copays for birth control pills typically range between $15 and $50 per month — up to $600 per year.
- Other methods, such as IUDs, can cost several hundred dollars, even with health insurance. For the first time, under the birth control benefit, IUDs are now fully covered by insurance companies without additional out-of-pocket expense.
- For many women, birth control is used for a host of health care reasons. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 58 percent of birth control pill users cite health benefits as a contributing factor for using the birth control pill, including treating endometriosis, menstrual pain, and menstrual regulation.