Zubik v. Burwell: The Birth Control Case That Continues What Hobby Lobby Started
By Miriam Berg | March 22, 2016, 11:06 p.m.
Category: Birth Control, Health Care Equity
On March 23 — the Affordable Care Act’s sixth anniversary — the Supreme Court is hearing an oral argument from bosses trying to block women from the very promise the ACA made to them: birth control coverage without a copay.
In the case, known as Zubik v. Burwell, the Court will decide whether all of the more than 55 million women nationwide who now have access to no-copay birth control will retain that hard-won benefit — or if certain bosses can, once and for all, take away employees’ access to birth control.
What the Case is All About
Simply put, faith-based nonprofits are arguing over whether they must do basic paperwork.
Sure, some employers have legitimate religious objections to contraception. That’s why the Obama administration created an accommodation (i.e., workaround) for religiously affiliated nonprofits for the ACA’s birth control provision. This accommodation permits those nonprofits to carve out coverage, but still requires insurance companies to cover birth control without a copay.
Here’s how the accommodation works:
- Bosses can express their religious objection to contraception.
- Bosses fill out a one-page form or notice that states their objection to providing birth control coverage.
- Insurance companies provide the birth control coverage and communicate directly with employees.
- Employees access the health care they need at no additional cost.
Simple, right? But the faith-based organizations in the Zubik case oppose birth control so much that they don’t even want to fill out the form set up just for them — the very same form that enables them not to cover birth control.
ACA: The Country’s Historic Health Reform Has Made Historic Strides in Women’s Health
To fully understand the impact that a bad Supreme Court ruling could have for women, it’s important to understand the strides that the ACA has made. Because of the ACA, for the first time in American history every insurance plan is required to provide certain preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs for all enrollees. For women, that preventive care includes all FDA-approved methods of contraception, as well as services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, well-woman exams, prenatal care, and breastfeeding supplies.
Thanks to the ACA, America has made tremendous gains for women’s health and lives. Just two take-home stats:
- The ACA expanded access to no-copay birth control to more than 55 million women — an extraordinary achievement.
- The ACA has saved women an estimated $1.4 billion a year on birth control pills alone — showing the clear economic impact that access to copay-free birth control has on women’s lives.
But all that progress is at risk with Zubik in the Supreme Court.
Hobby Lobby Déjà Vu
Does all this sound familiar? That’s because the devastating Hobby Lobby decision let bosses of some for-profit companies deny birth control coverage to their employees.
The Zubik case could go a step further. Here’s how:
- In response to the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Obama administration created a rule so that employees at companies like Hobby Lobby could still get no-copay birth control directly from insurance companies — just as the administration previously did for religiously affiliated nonprofits.
- Zubik v. Burwell could COMPLETELY strike down this accommodation, leaving women whose bosses oppose women's health without any access to birth control coverage.
That’s how big this case really is.
Whereas anti-birth control bosses might want you to think this case is just about a small group of nuns, the reality is that Zubik v. Burwell could have far-reaching implications at huge organizations that cover thousands of people’s health insurance — like the staff and students at Catholic universities and colleges. The ruling could also impact other areas of the law, like non-discrimination protections or criminal prosecutions.
With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that Planned Parenthood Federation of America and many other groups committed to equality for women filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the birth control coverage requirement and accommodation. This brief joined dozens of others filed by members of Congress, medical providers, LGBT groups, faith-based groups, students, and others.
Tell Bosses: #HandsOffMyBC!
In June we’ll hear the verdict in Zubik v. Burwell, which is actually one of several consolidated cases brought by religiously affiliated nonprofits that object to the birth control accommodation. In the meantime, here’s what you need to remember: This case is not about religious freedom. It is about limiting women’s access to health care.
So, while we celebrate the sixth anniversary of historic health care reform, it is more important than ever to demand that where you work should NOT determine whether or not you have access to affordable birth control.
Agree? Then tweet #HandsOffMyBC, and share this post on Facebook!
Tags: Obamacare, Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court, birth control