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Karl A. Racine
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DC Joins States' Supreme Court Brief in Support of Birth Control Provision of Healthcare Law

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ted Gest, Public Information Officer
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The District of Columbia joined fifteen states in a Supreme Court brief supporting the federal government’s position that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires private corporate employers to provide health insurance for contraceptives and related medical services for their employees, even if the corporation’s top shareholders may oppose birth control on personal religious grounds, D. C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said today.

The Affordable Care Act exempts non-profit “religious employers” and other non-profit religious organizations from providing contraceptives. The Supreme Court is hearing two cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. vs. Sebelius, on March 25 to decide whether private, for-profit corporations may also be relieved of the requirement by citing religious beliefs of their shareholders, directors, or managers.

Interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to “allow a business corporation to assert religious free-exercise rights based on the personal beliefs of some group of individual shareholders or managers would be a startling departure” from the norm that a corporation has a separate legal identity from that of its owners and managers, says the amicus brief filed yesterday in the two cases.

The brief says the ACA does not require employers to endorse any form of medical treatment but rather that health plans cover “the cost of FDA-approved contraceptives for any employee who might make the personal choice to use them.” It adds that “ensuring affordable access to contraceptives serves compelling public interests in promoting public health, gender equity, individual autonomy, and other social and economic goals, including easing burdens on the public fisc.”

Attorney General Nathan said: “The healthcare bill’s contraceptive-coverage provision helps provide important protections for our residents’ access to health care. These important benefits should not be lost by an improper and untenable interpretation of the law on religious freedoms. For-profit corporations have no religion, and the personal religion of shareholders or managers cannot be imputed to a profit-seeking corporation.”