July 14, 2015

WASHINGTON — A federal court ruled today that nonprofit employees must be able to access contraceptive coverage despite their employer’s religious beliefs.  The plaintiffs, including non-profit Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, claimed they shouldn’t have to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

“The court’s opinion is a huge victory for women. The judges correctly held that the religious beliefs of an employer cannot not be used to prevent their employees from having health insurance coverage for contraception,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “Religious liberty is a fundamental value, and one that we fight for here at the ACLU. But religious freedom doesn’t give the plaintiffs in these cases the right to discriminate against their female employees.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit found that the religious accommodation in the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive rule imposed no substantial burden on the plaintiffs’ religious freedom. This accommodation allows nonprofits that refuse to follow the law requiring employee contraceptive coverage to notify their insurers or the government — which will in turn notify the insurer — of their objection. The insurer must then arrange and pay for the employee’s contraceptive coverage separately.

All six appeals courts to consider challenges from nonprofit organizations have found that the accommodation poses no substantial burden on the nonprofits’ religion.

For more ACLU’s friend of the court brief in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius:
https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/04.03.14_aclu_and_au_amicus_brief.pdf

 

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