In the years since Obamacare took effect, the rule that employers need to provide access to birth control as saved women $1.4 billion.
The Supreme Court decision last year that Hobby Lobby did not have to provide full birth control access to their employees based on religious objections was unprecedented, and severely restricted women’s access to birth control.
Efforts to negate the Supreme Court’s decision to side with companies over women’s health immediately sprang up, including in Minnesota. Our progressive legislative leaders introduced the Contraception Health Equity and Employee Rights (CHEER) Act, which would ensure Minnesota women have access to birth control regardless of where they work.
“Minnesota women have the right to make their own health care decisions without interference by their boss. Women shouldn’t be discriminated against for their personal health care decisions, including whether and when to use contraception,” said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy. “The Supreme Court’s misguided ruling and inaction in Congress means that we need a state legislature that will step up for basic health care equity for Minnesota women.”
Unfortunately, the CHEER Act stalled in Minnesota because Republicans in the House refused to support women’s contraceptive rights.
Luckily, there’s some good news. Last week, the Obama Administration overrode the Hobby Lobby decision and issued a new rule that employers will provide access to birth control regardless of their moral or religious objections. Birth control will be covered at no cost to employees, even if their employer objects.
How it works is that companies can write to the Department of Health and Human Services if they object, and HHS will notify a third-party insurance company that will provide birth control coverage to that company’s female employees.
“Women across the country should have access to preventive services, including contraception,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “At the same time, we recognize the deeply held views on these issues, and we are committed to securing women’s access to important preventive services at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act, while respecting religious beliefs.”
This is a huge win for women’s health. Women should have access to birth control regardless of where they work, and thanks to President Obama, that just became a reality.