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More Challenges to the Contraception Rule, More Misguided Arguments

Brigitte Amiri,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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November 15, 2012

There are now close to 40 challenges to the federal birth control rule, which ensures that employees have insurance coverage for contraception. Why so many lawsuits, you ask? The answer is not entirely clear, but one thing is certain: each case repeats the same misguided argument that an employer’s religious beliefs can be used as a license to discriminate against its female employees. As we have explained in greater detail their legal claims are unsupported by a long history of cases. We’ve filed friend-of-the-court briefs in several contraception suits discussing those cases, all of which rejected other attempts to use religious beliefs as a basis for discrimination. In the last week alone, we’ve filed three briefs: one in a case in Michigan with the ACLU of Michigan, and two others with the ACLU of Illinois.

Unfortunately, not every court is protecting the rights of female employees as they should. Recently, a court in Michigan, temporarily blocked the rule for a lawn equipment company. Although the court recognized that the government may likely win in the long run, the court ruled that the company might be harmed by having to comply with the rule in the meantime. But the court’s analysis completely neglects the harm to the company’s employees, and the fact that, while the rule is blocked, they are being denied contraception coverage. As we’ve discussed, access to contraception couldn’t be more important for women and their families. It gives us the ability to determine whether and when to have children, which in turn allows us to make real decisions about our schooling, careers, and lives.

We hope that this temporary ruling was just an abberation. Courts instead should follow the lead of the district court in Missouri that rejected one of these cases outright. The court in that case saw these case for what they are: an attempt by companies to foist the owner’s religious beliefs on his or her employees in attempt to deny important health care coverage.

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