Press Release

Reproductive Freedom

Contraception is a key tool for gender equity

The ACLU of Massachusetts – together with Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak and Cohen – today submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of Attorney General Healey’s lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, arguing that an opt-out policy for contraception coverage discriminates against women.

The amicus brief emphasizes that contraceptive access is a critical tool to achieve gender equity in educational and employment access, and that the new rules reinstitute the barriers to equal participation that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate was designed to remove.

“The Trump Administration’s opt-out policy would prevent women from undertaking the necessary family planning that allows them to fully participate in society and the workplace,” said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU of Massachusetts. “Decisions regarding birth control methods are best left to doctors and their patients; no woman should ever be denied health care because her employer’s religious beliefs or moral objections are prioritized over her medical needs. At the ACLU of Massachusetts, we remain deeply committed to fighting the worst excesses of the Trump Administration, including this gross discrimination against women and families.”

“Birth control is basic, preventive health care that millions of women rely on every year to stay healthy, plan their families, and focus on their futures. Insurance coverage guarantees a woman’s decisions about her birth control are dictated by her health care needs, not her finances. The Trump administration has obliterated that guarantee, putting a woman’s most basic and personal of decisions – when and if to have a child — in the hands of her boss. As long as this rule is in place, the health and wellbeing of millions of women is at risk. Everyone, regardless of their income, zip code, or employer, deserves the ability to access the care they need without costly barriers or political games. Trump’s anti-women, anti-science agenda must be stopped in its tracks,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

“By gutting the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate, the Trump administration is rolling back women’s rights,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “It’s simple: Birth control prevents pregnancy, and choosing when and whether to become a parent is fundamental to being able to continue education, continue work, and plan for the children you already have. By supporting Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit to protect access to birth control for the women of the Commonwealth, we are making clear to the Trump Administration that Massachusetts will not tolerate moving backwards on health care or on women’s rights.”

According to the amicus brief, the new policy has dramatically – and unconstitutionally – changed access to affordable contraception coverage established by the Affordable Care Act. Now, if a school or employer opts out of providing contraception coverage to their students and employees based on their religious or moral beliefs, insurance will not cover contraception either, leaving their students and employees without any contraception coverage. The new rules apply to both religious and non-religious “moral” beliefs against contraception.

The brief emphasizes that the new rules violate the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution by hindering women’s equal participation in society, perpetuating outmoded gender stereotypes, and unlawfully elevating an employer’s belief that contraception use is immoral or sinful above a woman’s bodily autonomy. The actions and words of this particular President, which have repeatedly targeted services for women and embraced gender stereotypes, confirm that the new rules discriminate against women, the brief argues. It goes on to highlight that the federal government’s invocation of religious and moral beliefs to justify this discrimination is not persuasive, both because the rules only target services women use and because the historical movement toward greater equality for women and racial minorities has been accompanied by a growing rejection of religious justifications for discrimination in the marketplace.

The brief follows the ACLU of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts’ recent legislative victory, when Massachusetts became the first state to counter the Trump Administration’s policy change with a new law. The Contraceptive ACCESS law safeguards and advances contraception coverage in Massachusetts. The law applies to health plans in which an employer pays a premium to an insurance plan for coverage. State law, however, cannot regulate employers with self-insured plans, leaving the many residents insured by such plans at risk.

For more information about the case, click here.

To learn about the ACLU of Massachusetts’ work for reproductive freedom, click here.

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