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Move over, Griswold v. Connecticut! Make way, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The legal world of contraception is changing yet again. As stated in Law360’s post earlier this September, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon came to a decision in March for Life et al. v. Burwell et al.
According to an article by The New York Times, March for Life Education and Defense Fund, a secular pro-life organization that formed in 1973 in response to Roe v. Wade, challenged the Affordable Care Act this August for its mandate regarding birth control. March for Life fought for the option of purchasing a health care plan that excluded birth control, particularly intrauterine devices and birth control pills, which their representatives referred to as “abortion pills.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, under the Affordable Care Act, most companies must provide insurance plans that include contraception and reproductive health services for their employees. As ruled in last year’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, institutions that are religiously against birth control do not have to include it in their employees’ health insurance plans. Because March for Life has no religious affiliations, it is not exempted from this mandate. In turn, this pro-life organization sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
March for Life argued that it may not be religiously against birth control, but it does find it morally wrong. According to the official docket, this organization claims to aim to protect human life at every stage. Because contraception can “prevent or dislodge the implantation of a human embryo after fertilization,” they believe most forms of birth control are considered abortifacients.
In case you were wondering, an abortifacient is a drug that can terminate a pregnancy. In “What’s abortifacient? Disputes over birth control fuel Obamacare fight,” Washington Post writer Cathy Lynn Grossman discusses RU-486, a drug designed solely for pregnancy termination, and, therefore, a clear-cut example of an abortifacient.
Under the Affordable Care Act, contraception methods must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As stated on the U.S. Department of Labor’s site, the FDA approves of 18 different types of contraception, including variations of “the pill,” diaphragms, and arm-implants. Abortifacients are not approved by the FDA.
So, if the forms of contraception described by March for Life are not considered abortifacients by government standards, why did the judge rule in their favor? In his opinion, Judge Leon stated that the Department of Health and Human Services was showing favoritism to religious organizations and that moral objections should be weighed the same as religious ones.
The Department of Health and Human Services will likely appeal this case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, according to The New York Times’ coverage on the court case. Because of this ruling, it may be possible for organizations to exclude contraceptives from their health care plans if they are “morally against them.” Depending on a possible decision by the Court of Appeals, U.S. businesses may experience a change in birth control legislation.