Guttmacher Supreme Court Brief Puts Data Front and Center in Support of ACA’s Contraceptive Coverage Guarantee

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First published online:

The U.S. Supreme Court should hold that owners of for-profit companies cannot assert religious objections to deny their employees insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies in employer-sponsored health plans, argues a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Guttmacher Institute and Professor Sara Rosenbaum (a member of the Guttmacher board of directors and professor at The George Washington University). The brief’s legal team was led by former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and Indiana University Professor (and Guttmacher board member) Dawn Johnsen.

At issue in two related cases (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius), to be argued before the Court on March 25, is a provision under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) guaranteeing that most private insurance plans cover the full range of prescription contraception without cost-sharing for patients. Churches and other houses of worship are exempted from this requirement and an accommodation is in place for religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations. However, a number of for-profit companies are challenging the federal policy, claiming they too should be able to opt out of covering some or possibly all methods of contraception on the grounds that their owners deem those methods morally objectionable.

Countering the enormous amount of misinformation and distortion of the scientific evidence that opponents of the federal contraceptive coverage policy have perpetrated, the Guttmacher-Rosenbaum brief presents extensive data from the Guttmacher Institute and other leading authorities to clarify numerous key points for the legal record: methods of contraception differ dramatically in their effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancy; methods are not interchangeable medically, or in terms of their appropriateness or ease of use for a given woman at a given point in her life; and cost is a substantial barrier to women’s ability to choose and use the best method for them based on their individual circumstances and health needs. Moreover, removing cost barriers—as the federal policy currently requires—has been proven to make a substantial difference in facilitating access to contraceptive services.

The brief further documents that improved access to effective contraception reduces women’s risk of unintended pregnancy, which in turn reduces the need for abortion and promotes women’s educational, economic and social advancement. Acceding to the companies’ position that they should be exempt from the federal policy cannot be allowed, the brief explains, since doing so would substantially burden the female employees and family members who obtain health insurance through these employers. The burden on the women would be substantial, since it would interfere with their ability to effectively plan whether and when to have a child in accord with their own religious and moral beliefs, health needs and family responsibilities.

The below excerpt from the Summary section highlights the brief’s key arguments (see here for the full brief, including all citations):

See the full brief here: Brief of the Guttmacher Institute and Professor Sara Rosenbaum as amici curiae in support of the government

For more information:

Fact sheet: Contraceptive Use in the United States
Analysis: The Case for Insurance Coverage of Contraceptive Services and Supplies Without Cost-Sharing
Research: Review of Scientific Literature Documents the Significant Social and Economic Benefits of Contraception
Video: Benefits of Contraceptive Use
Infographic: Contraception Is Highly Effective
Research: Contraceptive Use Is the Norm Among Religious Women