Court Allows NY Catholic Groups to Refuse Contraceptive Coverage
A federal judge ruled yesterday that a group of Catholic institutions in New York do not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement. The ACA guarantees that all new health insurance plans cover FDA-approved contraceptives, including the pill and IUDs, without co-pays or deductibles.
US District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn ruled that the six plaintiffs - Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Health Care System, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, Diocese of Rockville Centre, Cardinal Spellman High School, and Monsignor Farrell High School - are exempt from the mandate because of their religious beliefs. This case is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius [PDF].
Although the ACA provision has helped thousands of US women obtain contraception - the proportion of women paying zero dollars for oral contraceptive pills increased from 15 to 40 percent since it went into effect - this ruling will make it harder for the more than 25,000 employees of the plaintiffs to obtain affordable contraception.
Several for-profit companies have also challenged the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement in federal courts. In November, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by Hobby Lobby, a for-profit national craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood, a wood cabinet manufacturer. Both are arguing that the requirement violates the religious beliefs of these corporations and that they should not be required to provide health insurance plans that cover certain types of birth control.
The Feminist Majority Foundation launched a petition to send the Supreme Court a clear message that companies should not be able to use religion as cover to discriminate against women. Sign our petition, leave stories,and tell the Court why birth control coverage matters to you! You can also share the petition online using the tag #MyBodyMyBC!
Media Resources: US District Court Eastern District of New York 12/16/13; RH Reality Check 12/16/13; Feminist Newswire 11/12/13, 11/26/13, 12/13/13; Bloomberg Business Week 12/15/13; Change.org
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .