Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Monday the state joined a coalition of 16 states and DC in a “friend-of-the-court” or amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case of of Zubik, et al.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Monday the state joined a coalition of 16 states and DC in a “friend-of-the-court” or amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case of of Zubik, et al. v. Burwell et al., which asks the Court to protect women’s access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The brief argues that women have access to birth control without interference from their employer
The ACA provides an accommodation for religious nonprofit organizations that object to its requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans contain coverage for preventative healthcare, including contraception. Through this accommodation, these organizations can simply opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to their employees by informing their insurance company or the federal government of their objection to this coverage.
If an organization opts out, the insurer will then provide contraceptive coverage directly to employees at the insurance companies own expense. In the Zubik case, several nonprofit religious organizations filed suit against Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, arguing that this opt-out accommodation violates their religious beliefs.
“Virginia women should never have affordable access to contraception and family planning controlled by their employer,” said Attorney General Herring. in a release. “The law allows women to access the full range of healthcare services they are entitled to while still respecting the religious liberties of faith-based organizations, and I hope the Supreme Court will uphold this reasonable balance and accommodation.”
The amicus brief argues that the ACA’s opt-out accommodation does not create a substantial burden and therefore does not interfere with or violate the rights of these organizations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It goes on to state that the accommodation proposed by religious employers would impose a financial burden on women seeking access to contraception.
According to the release, the brief urges the U.S. Supreme Court to interpret the RFRA in a way that won’t :interfere with States’ goals and prerogatives to protect public health and promote gender equity.”
Besides VIrginia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia also signed on to the amicus brief.
In January 2106, Attorney General Herring joined 13 other states and the District of Columbia in signing a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that would substantially restricting access to abortion services in Texas.