In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court will now allow schools and businesses to dictate who deserves birth control based on their own moral compasses.
In a ruling issued recently, the United States Supreme Court affirmed that the Trump administration would be free to allow employers the choice to deny birth control to their workers based on religious or moral objections, VICE reports. The ruling, with seven votes in favor and only two dissenting votes, reverses the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate, established by former President Barack Obama. While business owners were previously compelled by law to offer their employees contraceptive coverage under the Act, this is no longer the case. Celebrated by conservatives, the ruling comes as a major disappointment to reproductive rights advocates.
The ruling reaffirms 2017 legislation from the Trump administration that permitted certain employers to skirt the ACA's mandate. As per the new rules, even more organizations were allowed to refuse contraceptive coverage to their workers. The rules exempted firms on the grounds of religious or moral beliefs. Though Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued over those rules and won in a lower court, the Trump administration refused to back down. In collaboration with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a conservative Catholic group infamous for its staunch opposition to the birth control mandate, the federal government went all the way to the Supreme Court in order to protect its interests.
Ultimately, the Trump administration won. Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury did in fact have the authority to make those exceptions for particular organizations. He wrote in his ruling, "The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes and the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions." Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh all sided with Thomas (as expected). Sadly, Chief Justice John Roberts, who has in the recent past taken a more progressive stance, also sided with the conservative group.
Typically liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer also sided with the majority though in a separate written statement. Kagan, however, noted that the exemptions could be challenged again as they had the potential of being too “arbitrary and capricious." "For example, the Departments allow even publicly traded corporations to claim a religious exemption," she explained. "That option is unusual enough to raise a serious question about whether the Departments adequately supported their choice." Thankfully, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg proved she was still a friend of the liberals. Dissenting in an opinion joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, she highlighted that anywhere between 70,500 and 126,400 women now stand to lose their "no-cost contraceptive services."
The Justice criticized, "This court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets." While the ruling leaves many women's reproductive health at stake, there is one voice of hope: Hosh Shapiro, the state of Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, promised to continue fighting the recently-permitted restrictions. "Our case is about an overly broad rule that allows the personal beliefs of CEOs to dictate women’s guaranteed access to contraceptive medicine," he affirmed in a tweet. "And I will continue this battle on behalf of women everywhere."