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Lawmakers File Supreme Court Briefs in Contraception Case

Lawmakers File Supreme Court Briefs in Contraception Case

January 29, 2014 — Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Tuesday filed opposing amicus briefs in a Supreme Court case that will decide whether the federal contraceptive coverage rules infringe upon the religious beliefs of business owners, the Washington Times reports (Howell, Washington Times, 1/28).

The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most for-profit, private businesses to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans.

In the case before the high court, the arts-and-crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby and cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties argue that the requirement goes against their owners' personal religious beliefs and violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141), which "protects a person's exercise of religion." The court also will consider whether the First Amendment's free exercise clause may apply to for-profit businesses.

Oral arguments are scheduled for March 25 (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/13).

Democrats' Amicus Briefs

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and 90 other Democrats in a brief filed Tuesday said that corporations do not have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. They argued that the federal contraceptive coverage rules do not impose a "substantial" burden on employers in violation of RFRA, adding that the rules "merely requir[e] corporations, like other employers, to provide comprehensive insurance coverage under which their employees may make their own personal decisions, in consultation with their doctors, whether to use whatever form of contraception, if any, best suits their individualized health and wellness needs" (Washington Times, 1/28).

Separately, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and 18 other Democratic senators filed an amicus brief making similar arguments.

Murray said in a statement, "What's at stake in this case before the Supreme Court is whether a CEO's personal beliefs can trump a woman's right to access free or low-cost contraception under the [ACA]." She added, "Allowing a woman's boss to call the shots about her access to birth control should be inconceivable to all Americans in this day and age, and takes us back to a place in history when women had no voice or choice " (Sanchez, "#WGDB" Roll Call, 1/28).

Republicans' Amicus Briefs

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) led a group of 14 other Republican lawmakers in filing an amicus brief arguing that the federal contraceptive rules do violate RFRA.

"Congress has commanded equal treatment of all under a religion-protective rule," they wrote, adding, "The government may not pick and choose whose exercise of religion is protected under RFRA and whose is not" (Washington Times, 1/28).

In a separate amicus brief, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) also argued against the rules, stating that the Obama administration has "chosen repeatedly to break the law by giving breaks to big businesses and Congress, while refusing to grant those same waivers to people with sincerely held religious beliefs."

Separately, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and 14 Senate Republicans, along with 71 House lawmakers, also filed an amicus brief arguing that the rules violate RFRA ("WGDB," Roll Call, 1/28).