WASHINGTON – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., along with Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., today led a group of more than 30 Democratic senators in filing an amicus brief Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court on the need to protect women’s access to affordable birth control.
The brief was filed ahead of next month’s arguments in the consolidated cases of Zubik v. Burwell, yet another attempt by some employers to interfere with women’s access to health care by denying women and their families insurance coverage for birth control.
Today, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance plans to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control, without any out-of-pocket costs. Millions of women are already benefiting from this provision, the lawmakers said.
Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and the law also allows some employers who have cited religious objections to “opt-out” of offering health insurance plans that cover contraception.
“In addition to promoting women’s health, Congress emphasized that the ACA in general, and the preventive care provisions for women in particular, were critical in combating discrimination against women,” the senators wrote.
“In the years since the ACA’s enactment, women’s access to health care has improved dramatically, as reflected in the ability of women to obtain critical services, including contraception, and the reduced out-of-pocket costs of those services,” they added.
Nonetheless, some employers want to further deny their workers access to insurance coverage of birth control. In Zubik v. Burwell, these employers have challenged the ACA’s birth control policy in court, arguing that even the “opt-out” process violates their religious beliefs.
In the senators’ amicus brief, they argue that the policy—and its “opt-out” process—strikes the right balance between respecting religious liberty and ensuring that the women who work for these employers are able to receive coverage of birth control. The senators also warn that striking down the policy may invite further challenges to public health and anti-discrimination laws.
The bicameral amicus brief was filed with the Supreme Court Thursday and was signed by 33 senators and 90 members of the House of Representatives who were part of congressional passage of the ACA.
Other Senate signers include Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Tom Carper, D-Del., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii,, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Pat Leahy, D-Vt., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.