ACLU Files Brief Supporting Contraceptive Coverage Rule

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
December 13, 2013 12:00 am

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ACLU of Tennessee
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Rule Does Not Violate Religious Liberty

December 13, 2013

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NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee have filed an amicus brief supporting the federal government’s rule requiring contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance plans. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville and other religious nonprofits have challenged the rule, arguing that it violates their religious liberty.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right, and everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs,” said Jennifer Lee, national ACLU staff attorney. “But that does not give employers a free pass to interfere with the rights of their employees or to impose their religious beliefs on others.”

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government issued a rule that requires health plans to cover contraception without a co-pay. The rule accommodates nonprofit entities with religious objections to contraception by ensuring that they will not bear the cost or otherwise have any connection with the coverage.

ACLU’s brief argues that the contraception rule does not substantially burden religious exercise, as it only requires non-profit employers to send a two-page form to their insurance carriers articulating their religious objection to covering contraceptives. They are not required to pay for such coverage or to otherwise modify their behavior.

In addition, the brief asserts, the ability to control whether and when to have children has enabled women to achieve greater academic, professional and economic success. Because health insurance coverage of contraception is an important step toward promoting women’s equality, denying such coverage amounts to disadvantaging and discriminating against female employees.

“Religion cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against female employees by denying them coverage for something as fundamental as contraception,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “True religious freedom allows everyone the right to make personal decisions, including decisions about birth control, based on their own beliefs.”

This case is one of more than 70 across the country currently pending that address the rule requiring contraception coverage. ACLU has filed more than 40 amicus briefs in these contraceptive rule cases.

ACLU’s brief was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. In addition to Lee, attorneys on the case include Brigitte Amiri and Daniel Mach of ACLU, and Thomas H. Castelli of the ACLU of Tennessee.

ACLU and ACLU-TN’s amicus brief can be found here.

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