Religious Employers Strive to Scuttle Health Care Law’s Contraception Coverage, Despite Staunch Support, and Study Showing Effectiveness

October 24, 2012
by Jeremy Leaming
Despite loud grumblings and a raft of lawsuits over the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers – save for houses of worship and religious orders – must provide free contraceptives in their health care plans for workers, a new poll reveals overwhelming support for the policy and a forthcoming medical study shows the effectiveness of such a policy.
The Hill reports that the new survey shows 70 percent of respondents support the requirement and 79 percent said “lawmakers who oppose abortion should support contraception because it decreases the odds of unplanned pregnancy, the poll found.” The Hill also notes that the polls shows support of the contraception policy is “widespread across political parties, including 71 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of independents ….”
Beyond evidence of staunch support of the ACA’s contraception policy, which as BYU law school Professor Frederick Mark Gedicks notes in a new ACS Issue Brief is aimed, in part, at reducing health care costs and improving “public health and well-being by encouraging the use of preventive health care services,” there is mounting evidence that access to the most effective contraceptives can lead to a significant drop in unplanned pregnancies. This of course also helps lower health care costs, another intent of the ACA.
A forthcoming study from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University, St. Louis School of Medicine, shows that intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants are among the most effective means to preventing unintended pregnancies. They also happen to carry steep up-front costs. But the study concluded, in part, that providing no-cost contraception and promoting the use of the most effective contraceptives led to a significant decline in unintended pregnancies. In deed the study concludes that providing at no-cost the most effective contraceptives, such as IUDs and implants “would prevent as many as 62-78% of abortions performed annually in the United States.”
Gedicks notes in his Issue Brief that because of the “high up-front costs ranging from $500 to $800,” many working-class and low-income women are frequently unable to obtain the most effective preventive health care resources. The ACA’s requirement, however, includes providing FDA-approved contraceptive methods, such as IUDs at no cost.
But some religious employers, including for-profit companies, are feverishly working to undermine the effectiveness of the landmark health care law’s contraception coverage policy. They argue in a string of lawsuits that their religious beliefs shield them from having to comply with the law.
Gedicks’ Issue Brief, as noted here, explains why the religious employers’ legal arguments – that the contraception policy violates their First Amendment rights as well a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – are weak.
For instance under the First Amendment argument, Gedicks notes that law’s contraception policy does not force employers “to make any decision about the use of mandated contraceptives by their employers; all such decisions are made by each individual employee, who may not even be a member of the employer’s faith.”
“It is hard to see,” Gedicks continues, “how employee decisions to use contraceptives constitute a ‘substantial burden’ on the employer’s religious liberty to avoid endorsing contraception use.”