The Supreme Court Just Struck a Huge Blow to Obamacare’s Birth Control Requirement

The ruling makes it easier for employers to deny workers contraceptive care.

Jeff Malet/NC/Zuma

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Trump administration rule that lets employers deny women free birth control coverage in health insurance plans on moral or religious grounds.

The Affordable Care Act mandated that employers provide free contraceptive care as part of their health insurance plans, but it included an exception for employers with religious affiliations. When employers alerted the government to their objections to providing health insurance coverage, the insurance companies, rather than the employers, would be forced to cover those costs.

As my colleague Hannah Levintova reported when the rule was first issued in 2017:

The Trump administration’s new rule expands this exemption, allowing virtually any organization, not just a religious one, to opt out of the mandate if they feel contraception coverage violates their religious beliefs or “moral convictions”—a much broader (and murkier) standard than before.

The new rule also strips out the provision requiring employers opting out of birth control coverage to notify the government they are doing so; now they’re only required to notify employees of a change in their insurance plans. Insurance companies could also themselves refuse to cover contraception if it violates their religious or moral beliefs.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled that the Trump administration “had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.” Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen G. Breyer did not join the conservative justices’ majority opinion, but did decide to send the case back to lower courts. Only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

According to the Washington Post, the ruling could strip 70,000 to 126,000 women of access to free contraceptive care. As my colleague Patrick Caldwell reported in 2018, the Obamacare provision saved women massive amounts of money on contraception, bringing the amount of women who payed for at least part of their birth control down from 22.7 percent in 2012 to just 2.7 percent by 2016.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate