Supreme Court lets employers cite religion to deny birth control

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2020 | Firm News

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that allows employers in Minnesota and across the country to restrict women’s birth control coverage. Under this ruling, employers can deny coverage on religious or moral grounds. 

The New York Times explains that this decision limits a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. 

Most employers must cover birth control

President Barack Obama signed the ACA in 2010. The law requires employers to cover preventive health care and screenings for women. In 2011, the Obama administration added a birth control requirement. This new rule required employers and insurance companies to cover free contraception. Churches, temples and mosques did not need to provide this coverage. However, the law required nonprofit groups affiliated with religious organizations to comply. 

The Court’s majority favors employers

Religious-affiliated employers objected to the contraception mandate and sought an exemption. President Donald Trump’s administration agreed with these employers. The administration argued that the birth control rule substantially burdens religious freedom. The Court’s majority sided with the administration. Justice Clarence Thomas authored the majority opinion. He argued that regulators have the right to use discretion about what preventive care covers under the ACA. He also wrote that regulators may determine religious and moral exemptions. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion. She argued that the Court is moving away from a “balanced” approach to religious freedom. Ginsburg asserted the Court is going to extremes to protect religious rights. 

In another recent case, a majority of justices agreed that employment discrimination laws do not cover teachers in religious schools. Together, these rulings have the potential to impact employer-employee relations in matters involving the availability of benefits and workplace discrimination policies.