(San Francisco, CA, June 30, 2014)—Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that limits the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires all health insurance plans to include preventative healthcare, including contraception coverage.
The Court agreed with for-profit corporation Hobby Lobby that the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) applies to the activities of closely-held corporations. This means that corporations with a small number (five or fewer) of majority shareholders can claim a right to be exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandate and not be required to provide birth control under their insurance plans.
This ruling is harmful to women and has potentially harmful implications for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Access to affordable contraception is a crucial issue for lesbian and bisexual women and the transgender community, and this ruling will negatively affect access to quality care for all people.
Statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.:
“The majority’s holding that closely held corporations can claim religious liberty protections designed for individuals—and can rely on those protections to avoid complying with generally applicable laws—is a dangerous and radical departure from existing law that creates far more questions than it answers and shows a callous disregard for the health care needs of women workers. Thankfully, however, the majority recognized that even under its sweeping new rule, corporations cannot rely on claims of religious liberty to evade non-discrimination laws. That limitation is extremely important and means that employers cannot exploit today’s decision to justify non-compliance with laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups, but we will need to be vigilant to make sure that principle is respected and enforced.”