A district court judge ruled in favor of anti-choice group March for Life Monday, deciding that employers don’t have to meet the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act if they have moral objections to birth control. This differs from and further cracks open the June 2014 Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision from June 2014 that granted ACA exemptions to organizations that were religiously opposed to covering contraception in employee insurance policies.
March for Life, which is a “nonreligious, pro-life organization,” directs the annual anti-abortion march in Washington, D.C., on or around the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It is only one of many nonprofit groups that believe they should be exempt from covering contraception based on moral grounds, not just religious ones.
The group opposes IUDs and emergency contraception like Plan B, considering them abortifacients even though the consensus of the medical community runs counter to this assertion. March for Life filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services last year, arguing that the government should afford it the same treatment as churches and that to not do so was a violation of the 14th Amendment right of “equal protection of the laws.”
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon wrote in the opinion for March for Life v. Burwell:
“If the purpose of the religious employer exemption is, as HHS states, to respect the anti-abortifacient tenets of an employment relationship, then it makes no rational sense-indeed, no sense whatsoever to deny March for Life that same respect.”
Cindy Pearson, the executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, condemned the judge’s ruling, saying that it denies women basic health care:
“Women already took a loss with the Hobby Lobby decision, and yesterday’s ruling was another slap in the face. Once again, [a judge thinks that] bosses are allowed to make women’s sexuality their business. I don’t believe the ruling will stand, but it’s wrong it even happened.”
This is the first decision of its kind and will likely be brought to the D.C. Circuit Court in an appeal.
Media Resources: The New York Times 8/31/2015; RH Reality Check 9/1/2015; March For Life v. Burwell 8/31/2015