What you need to know about birth control & the Supreme Court

Birth control is again before the Supreme Court. The justices are set to rule on a case involving the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate and whether religious non-profits should be allowed to completely opt out – rather than asking for an accommodation. The justices agreed to hear the case on Nov.


The Affordable Care Act mandated companies’ insurance plans cover the cost of birth control for employees.

However, in 2014 the Supreme Court sided 5-4 with Hobby Lobby in its case against the Affordable Care Act. In that case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Hobby Lobby wanted the ability to opt out of providing birth control coverage.

The Supreme Court sided with the company, saying closely-held, or family-owned, for-profit companies didn’t have to cover birth control. Read the deciding opinion here.

The mandate placed a burden on companies, challenging their religious liberty, Justice Samuel Alito said, according to the New York Times.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other dissenting justices called the decision radical, as the Times reported. Justice Ginsburg said it was the first time religious protections had been placed upon corporations.

Current case

In its current term the court will decide whether religious non-profits have enough accommodations when it comes to the birth control mandate.

What the law currently says

Religious non-profits do not have to provide birth control coverage directly. They can ask for accommodations. When an accommodation is filed, employees still have access to birth control through their insurers.

What the plaintiffs say

Little Sisters of the Poor, a nursing home, and Wheaton College, both religious institutions, say they want exemptions – not accommodations, SCOTUS Blog explains. They say the law burdens them. They point to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Only houses of worship, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation website, are currently eligible for exemptions. The exemptions mean employees don’t have “guaranteed contraceptive coverage,” the Kaiser website explains.


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