Reps. Nadler, DeGette, Slaughter, Pelosi Submit Amicus Brief on Behalf of 123 Members of Congress to Protect Contraceptive Coverage for All Women in Zubik v. Burwell

Feb 17, 2016 Issues: Civil Liberties, Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) joined Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-1), and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) in submitting an amicus brief in Zubik v. Burwell on behalf of 123 Democratic Members of Congress (90 House members and 33 Senators). Senator Al Franken and Senator Patty Murray joined by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid led the brief on the Senate side. The brief comes in advance of the United States Supreme Court hearing arguments in March challenging the “accommodation” to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control benefit. This case is another in a long line of efforts from individuals and organizations to opt-out of or flat-out ignore laws and regulations that violate their religious beliefs, with no regard for the rights of their employees or costumers.

Under the ACA, every insurance plan is required to provide preventive care for all enrollees at no out-of-pocket costs. For women, that preventive care includes any FDA-approved method of contraception. Recognizing that some employers have legitimate religious objections to contraception, the Obama Administration created an accommodation for religiously-affiliated nonprofits to ensure they could continue to express their religious objection to contraception, but their employees could still seamlessly access the health care they choose at no additional costs.

In the Congressional amicus brief authored by Reps. Nadler, DeGette, and Slaughter, 123 Members have urged the court to uphold the current accommodation going forward. The brief argues that free access to birth control is critical to women’s health. Since 2013, women have saved $1.4 billion on the birth control pill alone and more than 55 million women have accessed free birth control.  Further, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), on which the non-profits are basing their case, was intended to protect religious rights, not exert one person’s religious beliefs over another. This easy accommodation does not burden the nonprofits’ religious beliefs and achieves the government’s goal of providing more women access to critically important health care.

“The Obama Administration and the Congress have already ensured that religiously-affiliated nonprofits are not paying for care that violates their beliefs,” Leader Pelosi said.  “We are confident the Supreme Court will affirm that the Administration’s accommodation successfully ensures that all women have the right to make their own decisions on contraception coverage – not their employers – while not burdening these nonprofits’ religious beliefs.”
“The Affordable Care Act guaranteed that women have the right to access contraception, regardless of where they work or how they get their insurance,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “The Obama Administration took appropriate steps to protect that right while ensuring that religiously-affiliated employers are exempt from paying for or offering contraceptive coverage that violates their beliefs. The Court should recognize that this accommodation strikes the balance between protecting religious rights and protecting individual rights.”

“Contraceptive care has long been an essential part of quality health care for American women, and the Affordable Care Act has helped millions of women save billions of dollars in meeting their health needs," said Congresswoman Diana DeGette. "The Obama Administration has made sensible accommodations for employers who provide health insurance plans to employees and have religious beliefs that conflict with the provision of this health care service, and the court should recognize the balance achieved here.”

“The constitutionally protected rights of women to make their own health care decisions have been under attack by those who want to turn back the clock on contraception and other health services. The administration’s effort under the Affordable Care Act to ensure all women have access to basic contraceptive services also respects the religious beliefs of religiously-affiliated organizations.  The court should recognize that this accommodation has struck the right balance in respecting religious rights and the rights of women to make their own health care decisions,” said Congresswoman Slaughter.