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Illustration by Security Management

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Religious Employers to Deny Birth Control Coverage Under ACA

The U.S. Supreme Court supported a Trump administration rule that allows for exemptions to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s requirement that include free contraceptive coverage in most health care plans.

The administration’s exception is extended to employers with sincere religious or moral objections to birth control. Churches, temples, and other places of worship were already exempt from the ACA’s birth control mandate that insurance providers allow for free birth control coverage. Other employers, such as universities, charities, or hospitals with religious affiliations, had an opt-out clause—one that did not satisfy some religious objectors. Some employers asserted that the opt-out option, which would notify their insurers and allow for free birth control to be provided separate from an employer’s plan, was essentially the same as using the employer’s plan to get contraceptives. 

The exemption will likely leave an estimated 125,000 women without coverage for birth control. 

The case will go back to a lower court, lifting an injunction filed by the U.S. states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey against applying the administration’s rule. They are expected to continue their fight against the administration's rule. 

That same day, the Court also ruled 7-2 that teachers at religious elementary schools are not protected by civil rights laws that would otherwise prohibit discrimination.

According to the majority opinion, the U.S. government’s interference in religious education—even when two teachers, who were dismissed from their jobs at California parochial schools, attempted to sue the schools for age discrimination and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—would violate the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

Ministers and other religious leaders were previously protected by the amendment, while also considered exempt from the protections of the ADA and other fair employment laws. The ruling now expands the exclusion to teachers whose professional training is not strictly religious.