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Attorney General Josh Stein Continues Fight to Protect Women’s Access to Safe Contraception

 Release date: 5/24/2019

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today filed an amicus brief in DeOtte v. Azar urging a federal district court in Texas to reject a request that would allow employers with religious objections to opt out of including the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement in their employer-provided insurance. This action would effectively deny tens of thousands of women access to contraceptive coverage.  
“I will fight to stop rules and government actions that limit women’s access to contraception,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Women should make their own birth control decisions, not their employers.”
The plaintiffs in the case have sought a permanent injunction that would bar the federal government from enforcing the ACA’s requirement that employer-provided insurance include birth control coverage. Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, employers who provide health insurance coverage to their employees have been required to include coverage for contraception, at no cost to the employee, with narrow exceptions for religious non-profit organizations and for closely held, for-profit companies. The ACA also provides seamless alternative contraception coverage to employees of objecting religious employers.
Nearly two million women in North Carolina have benefited from the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement. More than 70 percent of North Carolina women aged 18-49 use contraception, including nearly 80 percent who are at risk of unintended pregnancy.
In the amicus brief, the attorneys general argue the ACA’s contraceptive mandate does not violate the plaintiffs’ rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it does not impose a substantial burden on their own exercise of religion. According to the brief, the current accommodation in the ACA allows employers with religious objections to birth control to opt out of “providing, paying for, referring, contracting or arranging contraceptive coverage” and does not force the organization to play any role in providing contraception coverage.
The plaintiffs’ arguments are in line with those the federal government is making to justify new regulations that would authorize employers with a religious or moral objection to block their employees and their employees’ dependents from receiving insurance coverage for contraceptive care and services. A nationwide injunction granted in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has stopped these regulations from going into effect while litigation is pending. A separate case out of the North District of California has produced a preliminary injunction covering all of the plaintiff states challenging the rules. 
Attorney General Stein was joined in filing today’s brief by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
A copy of the brief is available here.

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484


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