Nearly six years ago, on March 23, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the biggest expansion of health care access since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, into law. Since the ACA’s implementation, people are no longer denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, over 16.4 million uninsured Americans now have health care coverage and the growth rate of health costs has slowed.
Despite these achievements, the intervening years have also been filled with countless legislative and judicial challenges to the law. For the past six years, supporters of the ACA have continuously had to fight in Congress and in the courts to preserve the Affordable Care Act, particularly in the area of women’s health. And so, once again, in 2016, the League of Women Voters has joined an amicus brief in a case challenging the contraceptive coverage provision.
On the sixth anniversary of the signing of the ACA, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case of Zubik v. Burwell. The Zubik case combines a series of challenges by religiously affiliated groups who maintain that the requirement that their health plans provide birth control violates their beliefs. Several years ago, after these groups and their Congressional supporters initially objected to providing contraceptive coverage, the Obama administration established an accommodation where the insurer would provide and fund the coverage directly. In Zubik, the religious groups maintain that they are still being forced to participate in a process that could result in their employees receiving birth control and that this violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The League of Women Voters believes that the contraceptive coverage accommodation serves a compelling governmental interest and does not put a burden on the religious beliefs of the organizations. We have joined with other organizations supporting equal access for women in health care arguing that the contraception accommodation for employers who object to providing contraceptive coverage is the least restrictive means of advancing the government’s compelling interest in protecting women’s health and promoting women’s equality.
The League has long standing positions in support of equal access to health care and equal rights for women as well as the right to privacy in reproductive choices. We believe that the employees of these organizations deserve access to comprehensive health care, including critical reproductive health services. The ACA has moved us forward in the quest to provide health and economic security for women and that should not be lost in the debate.
A decision in the case is expected by the end of June.