Supreme Court’s Latest Restriction on Accessing Contraceptives

Since no-cost contraceptive services became a mandatory component of company healthcare plans in 2010, several organizations have fought for and obtained religious exemptions from providing these reproductive services for their employees. These religious dispensations, which the Supreme Court has granted in spite of objections from several states and lesser courts, jeopardize the reproductive freedom of women across America who are provided with birth control at no out-of-pocket cost. In their latest attempt to undermine the Obama Administration’s Contraceptive Mandate, the Supreme Court has enabled employers to opt out of providing no-cost reproductive healthcare to their employees based on their religious and moral standpoints, thereby allowing an employer’s religious beliefs to eclipse the rights of their female employee and highlighting the ever-increasing importance of advocating for reproductive justice.

Required Birth Control Coverage in Healthcare Plans

The Contraceptive Mandate, which requires healthcare plans offered by applicable companies to cover contraceptive services at no personal cost to their employees, was introduced as part of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act shortly after it was passed in 2010. This government regulation has prevented thousands of women from personally having to pay for expensive reproductive services and provides them with autonomy over their body and future through accessible contraceptives. However, in recent years, the Trump Administration has made several attempts to undermine this mandate by providing a way around its regulations: increasing the number of companies who are exempt from providing their employees with no-cost contraceptives on the basis of their religious and moral beliefs. 

The Battle Against No-Cost Contraceptives

In the years since the Contraceptive Mandate was instituted, several companies have tried to obtain religious and moral exemptions from covering contraceptive services in their healthcare plans, which have been granted by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. This blatant violation of reproductive freedom outraged several states, and even prompted New Jersey and Pennsylvania to successfully sue for and obtain a nationwide preliminary injunction in the United States Court of Appeals. Their ruling concluded that the Departments in question do not have the authority to issue these exemptions and prevented the government from acting on them; however, this decision was recently overruled by the Supreme Court on July 2nd, 2020. In their latest attempt to undermine the Contraceptive Mandate, the Supreme Court has permitted the religious beliefs of a woman’s employer to strip her of her autonomy over her body and future. 

What This Means for Reproductive Freedom

According to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ability to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptive services could cost up to 126,400 women access to affordable reproductive healthcare. While some may argue that employers shouldn’t be forced to provide services that clash with their religious beliefs, birth control is more than just a healthcare service; it’s a woman’s ability to control her body, future, and personal choices. Allowing companies to restrict their employees’ access to contraceptives means handing a woman’s autonomy over her future to her employer, and permitting their religious beliefs to control her body. When it comes to reproductive services, a woman’s choices should be hers alone to make, yet the Supreme Court has just granted her employer a say in them. This ruling is a massive infringement on reproductive freedom and makes fighting for reproductive justice more important than ever. 

How to Advocate For Reproductive Justice 

In light of recent legislation, it has become increasingly important to educate yourself about reproductive freedom and learn how you can support the fight for reproductive justice. To get involved, you can stay updated on recent legislation through the ACLU, and check out the resources on the websites of leading reproductive rights organizations, such as A is For, Advocates for Youth, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and hundreds of others. You can also research your local pro-choice legislators and congressional representatives – if you have outstanding allies for reproductive justice in your state offices, write to them, thank them for their work and stress the importance of continuing it. It’s equally important to know who you’re electing as a representative, and thereby necessary to thoroughly research the candidates you’ll be voting for and their platforms, if you’re eligible to vote. Additionally, if you’re able to, donate to women’s health organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and local independent clinics, which many women rely on for contraceptive services and general healthcare. With the government’s ongoing effort to defund Planned Parenthood and the 28% of independent clinics that have shut down in the last five years due to lack of funding, it’s crucial to aid these organizations as much as possible so that they can continue to provide much-needed women’s health services. But most importantly, simply recognize the need for change, educate yourself on reproductive freedom, and become an advocate in the fight for reproductive justice.