Today, the Supreme Court will hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement. Two companies are arguing that obligating businesses to provide insurance plans that cover contraceptive services free of charge intrudes on their owners’ religious rights. A victory for the companies could open the door for any private for-profit employer to interfere with its employees’ health care on the basis of the employers’ personal beliefs.
In this case, the plaintiffs are challenging commonsense public policy. The costs associated with birth control interfere with women’s ability to use it consistently and effectively, leading to higher numbers of unintended pregnancies. That leads to more abortions and negative outcomes for mothers, babies, and families who do go through with an unplanned birth.
Allowing women to plan their pregnancies yields healthier babies, more stable families, and better economic and social outlooks for women. There’s also evidence that covering contraceptives saves insurance companies, employers, and taxpayers money; one study suggested that unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 billion each year.
Yet leading conservative politicians and right-wing groups insist on slapping a scarlet letter on contraceptive care, painting this sound health care policy as a question of religious intrusion. According to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), for example, “preventing babies from being born is not medicine.” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) insists that the controversy over women’s access to contraception “is not about women’s rights or contraception, this is about the religious liberties that our country has always cherished.” However, these Republican critics are out-of-step with the mainstream. Polling shows that 99 percent of women – including most Catholic women – have used birth control, and most women approve of the contraceptive coverage rule.
Read more after the jump.