Reproductive Rights

11.28.13

SCOTUS Takes On Birth Control

Seven reasons why the Supreme Court decision on contraception is a big deal.

The Supreme Court announced that it will hear claims by two for-profit corporations— Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties—cases that will determine whether corporations have the right to refuse to cover medical treatment for their employees based on their own personal beliefs. Both cases were brought by corporations whose owners object to the birth control benefit under the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds, and believe that they shouldn’t be required to provide their employees with no-copay birth control as required by law. Simply put: It’s a big deal.

Here’s a look at seven reasons why the Court’s decision matters to women across the country.

1. Birth control is basic health care.

The Affordable Care Act is the biggest advance for women’s health care in a generation. After decades of discriminatory coverage by insurance companies, the birth control benefit requires insurance policies to cover birth control with no out-of-pocket cost to women as part of preventive care—a huge step forward for millions. Since then, the owners of more than 40 for-profit companies—run by people with no medical training or expertise—have filed lawsuits because of their own personal objections to birth control. Along with our partners, Planned Parenthood is fighting back—because having insurance companies cover birth control shouldn’t be decided by your boss.

2. Virtually all American women have used birth control.

What’s unique about the birth control that the owners of this for-profit corporation want to deny their employees? It’s women who use it! In fact, 99 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some point in their lives. That includes 98 percent of Catholic women. It is time for equality under the law—and understanding that preventing unintended pregnancy is part of daily life for millions of women.

3. More than half of women who use the birth control pill use it for a reason other than contraception.

We see women every day at Planned Parenthood whose doctors have prescribed the pill to treat endometriosis, acne, cramps—the list goes on. In fact, 58 percent of women who use the pill use it at least in part for something other than contraception. The idea that an employer could choose not to cover a prescription medication because they disagree with one possible use is unacceptable. 

4. Twenty-seven million.

That’s how many women in America are already benefiting from birth control with no copay under the Affordable Care Act—along with other covered preventive services including mammograms, well-woman exams, and more. And by the time the law is fully implemented, that number is expected to reach 47 million. The birth control benefit is already making a huge difference for women across the country.

5. Birth control can be expensive.

Polling shows that more than one in three women voters have struggled to afford birth control—and as a result, haven’t used it consistently. But studies show that when cost isn’t a factor, women switch to the birth control method that’s right for them, use it reliably, and experience fewer unintended pregnancies.

6. This case is a chance to make history—for better or worse.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, it will establish a new precedent that gives for-profit corporations individual religious rights under the First Amendment—allowing their owners to interfere in employees’ private medical decisions.

7. It’s not just birth control.

A decision in favor of Hobby Lobby would create a slippery slope—giving employers the right (for the first time ever) to refuse to cover specific medical treatment to which their employees are legally entitled. We’re not just talking about birth control—that could include mental health services, vaccines, blood transfusions, cancer treatment, surgeries, and more.