Supreme Court Sides With Trump Administration’s Blow To Birth Control Access

Supermajority Education Fund

July 8, 2020

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court decided on July 8 to uphold the Trump administration’s attempt to allow employers with religious objections to deny their employees health insurance coverage for birth control. 

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, in which he stated that “the only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes,” Thomas wrote. “And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions.”

The decision combines two cases Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania   that appeared before the court in May. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, a Catholic group care home argued that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That Act states that the government must have a compelling reason for implementing programs that burden religious beliefs. The lawsuit Trump v. Pennsylvania was the Trump administration’s attempt to challenge a women’s right to access contraception under the Affordable Care Act. That suit states that a CEO’s moral and religious rights could be violated by mandating that coverage.

At the hearing, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated that the Trump administration’s justification for expanding the religious exemption clause was “too broad,” leading many court observers to believe the case would be struck down.

In a 2014 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. Since 2017, the Trump administration has been pushing to allow more employers to decline coverage for contraceptives under their healthcare plans if they have religious or moral objections. Now, according to government estimates, once this rule change takes effect, about 70,000 to 126,000 women will lose access to contraceptive coverage under their healthcare plans.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Elena Kagan joined, stating that “today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree.”

Advocates say the court’s decision is a sign that contraception coverage will continue to be a campaign issue going into November’s election.