LIVINGSTON, NJ, June 30, 2014 – The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) condemns today’s Supreme Court’s decision to allow employers to deny access to family planning services through employer-provided health insurance based on a claim of personal religious objection to contraception. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that private health insurance coverage include such access in any standard package of benefits. In separate cases, the owners of Hobby Lobby, a for-profit craft store chain, and Conestoga Woods Specialties Corporation, a for-profit furniture manufacturer, sought to assert a religious objection to withhold this preventive benefit. NCJW signed an amicus brief in each case in support of contraceptive coverage.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court struck down the law’s provision intended to ensure that millions of women workers – as well as women dependents of working men – would have access to birth control services at no added cost,” said Deborah Legow Schatz, president of NCJW/Essex. “Our members worked hard to help enact the Affordable Care Act and to ensure that such coverage would be part of the package of key preventive benefits offered to all covered workers, and that company leadership would not be able to interfere in women’s ability to make their own personal medical decisions.”
Ms. Schatz continued, “Under this ruling, private employers may be emboldened to cite religious objections to discriminate, potentially picking and choosing what services to cover in accordance with their own religious beliefs – eroding a worker’s religious liberty. This might even jeopardize the basic protections of the new health care law, as well as those of many longstanding civil rights and labor laws affecting private employers. Workers should never be forced to abide by personal religious views imposed by their boss.”
The Supreme Court cases in question, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius, both contain claims that employers ought to be able to disregard requirements of federal law that are contrary to their personal religious beliefs. More than 40 employers are involved in such lawsuits regarding the Affordable Care Act. Contraceptive access for women and families is a critical health and economic security issue. Nearly all women of child-bearing age report using contraceptives at some point in their lives, and many use them for medical conditions unrelated to family planning. Seven in ten Americans agree that health insurance companies should cover the full cost of contraceptive services, just as they do other medical conditions.