WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined a group of more than 30 Democratic Senators in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on the need to protect women’s access to affordable birth control. The brief was filed ahead of next month’s arguments in the consolidated cases of Zubik v. Burwell, yet another attempt by some employers to interfere with women’s access to health care by denying the women and their families’ insurance coverage for birth control.
Right now, the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to cover the full range of U.S. Food and Drug Adiminstration-approved birth control, without any out-of-pocket costs. Millions of women are already benefiting from this provision. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and the law also allows some employers who have cited religious objections to “opt-out” of offering health insurance plans that cover contraception.
Nonetheless, some employers want to further deny their workers access to insurance coverage of birth control. In Zubik v. Burwell, these employers have challenged the ACA’s birth control policy in court, arguing that even the “opt-out” process violates their religious beliefs. In the senators’ amicus brief, they argue that the policy—and its “opt-out” process—strikes the right balance between respecting religious liberty and ensuring that the women who work for these employers are able to receive coverage of birth control. The senators also warn that striking down the policy may open the floodgates to even more challenges to public health and anti-discrimination laws.
Sen. Sanders has long been a supporter of women’s health. He previously fought back against other legal challenges to the ACA’s birth control policy to make sure that women in Vermont who have benefited from coverage of preventive health care services—including contraception—can continue to receive preventive health services without a copay through their insurance. He also cosponsored the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, which would prevent employers from interfering in their employees’ decisions about contraception.
The bicameral amicus brief was filed with the Supreme Court today and was signed by 33 Senators and 90 members of the House of Representatives who were part of Congressional passage of the ACA. Other Senate signers include Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N. Mex.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.),Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
You can read the full brief by clicking here.