Americans United is following through on a promise we made when the Trump administration announced an attack on women’s healthcare last month: We’ve filed a federal lawsuit challenging the administration’s new regulations that allow employers and universities to use religion as an excuse to deny their staff and students health insurance coverage for birth control.
This year's Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill has a lot of problems—including a range of attacks on women’s reproductive healthcare. There will be many amendments offered to try to repair some of the damage, and this morning, we urged committee members to support two of them.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value. Our laws should be a shield to protect this freedom and not a sword to harm others.
From AU's Wall of Separation blog:
Late Thursday, Americans United told a federal appeals court that women would be severely harmed by the Trump administration’s proposed change to the current requirement that health insurance cover contraceptives, a change that would allow employers and universities to use religion as an excuse to deny contraceptive coverage completely.
Just as religious freedom is a fundamental American value, so is being able to make your own choices about healthcare. Decisions about women’s health should be left to women—not to politicians or employers.
But President Donald J. Trump, his Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and others in his administration want to give bosses the right to insert themselves into the private healthcare decisions of their employees, and misuse the concept of religious freedom to justify this invasion.
The proposed regulation, initiated by Trump’s May 4 executive order, would allow any employers to cite religious – or even “moral” – objections to opt out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that requires health-insurance plans to cover birth control with no co-pay. There’s no back-up plan. Under the Trump proposal, if the boss declines to cover contraceptives, the cost shifts to employees and students. (For more details on the Trump plan, read our analysis at our Protect Thy Neighbor project.)
“Using religion as an excuse to jeopardize women's access to basic healthcare is discrimination, plain and simple,” Richard B. Katskee, AU’s legal director, said in response to the Trump proposal. “If the rule is made final, we will fight it at every turn.”
In fact, AU has already begun fighting it: We filed our objections to the proposed rule with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, describing how the proposal – or any rule change that doesn’t provide affordable, seamless access to necessary healthcare—will harm women.
AU represents students in the case University of Notre Dame v. Price. These are the only women at risk of losing birth control coverage who are parties to the ongoing lawsuits filed in response to the ACA’s contraceptive-coverage provision.
The Obama administration had created an accommodation for non-profits with religious objections (and since expanded it to for-profit companies following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision). Under this accommodation, organizations need only complete a short form to opt out of providing contraception coverage, and the government will work with third-party insurers to provide the coverage at no cost to the affected women.
But attacks on contraception coverage persisted in ongoing litigation as some organizations argued that merely requesting the opt-out violates their religious freedom.
These cases, including Notre Dame v. Price, have remained in limbo since the U.S. Supreme Court returned them to the lower courts in May 2016. AU and the other parties in our case were required to file status updates yesterday with the 7th Circuit.
AU’s report told the court that the Trump administration’s proposed change “would modify the religious accommodation at issue here in just the way that the government previously reported could not be done without depriving women like (our clients) of access to essential health services.”
That result would violate the First Amendment’s church-state provisions, which forbid “religious exemptions or accommodations from generally applicable laws that would have a ‘detrimental effect on any third party.’”
AU will continue to make it clear that religion cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against women in their healthcare coverage.
Stay tuned—we’ll keep you posted on what happens with Trump’s proposal, this lawsuit and all of our Protect Thy Neighbor work to stop those who would misuse religious freedom as an excuse to harm others.
Several US senators have introduced legislation to overturn Trump’s recent “religious freedom” executive order.
The executive order signed by President Donald Trump wasn’t the only action taken last week by the Trump Administration to signal its intent to roll back key protections against discrimination in the Affordable Care Act under the guise of religious freedom.
According to new Public Religion Research Institute analysis, a clear majority of religious Americans oppose business owners using their religious beliefs to deny goods and services to LGBTQ individuals and couples. Indeed, religious freedom gives us the freedom to believe— or not— as we see fit. It does not, however, permit anyone to use religion as an excuse to discriminate.
Americans United and allies sent a letter to Virginia's Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology to warn of the real harm that HB 2025, a state combo Pastor Protection Act and First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), could inflict on many Virginians. The bill, as written, could allow individuals, for-profit corporations, and even taxpayer-funded organizations use religious beliefs about marriage as an excuse to discriminate against their neighbors.
We will continue to fight for our neighbors— LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, non-theists and anyone who faces discrimination based on someone else’s religious beliefs. But we need your help too. You need to contact the White House and tell the President to reject any executive order that sanctions discrimination in the name of religion.
Right now, state lawmakers are trying to use religion as an excuse to discriminate, but we're ready to fight back! Our 2017 State Legislation Tracker is your one-stop-shop for news, resources and most importantly, how you can make a difference.
We applaud companies like Sanderson Farms for recognizing that HB 1523 poses a threat to their employees and Mississippians as a whole. We hope that others join them in standing up to those who would harm our neighbors.
On New Year’s Eve, a federal judge sided with states and stopped the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from implementing the protections barring sex discrimination in the provision of healthcare services. As a result, individuals who are transgender and who’ve had abortions are at risk.