On Wednesday, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold a Trump Administration ruling that allows employers with religious or moral objections to restrict their employees’ access to birth control. The rule goes against an Affordable Care Act mandate that allowed companies to opt out of paying for contraception, but still provided employees under their healthcare plans with free birth control. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, this ruling could cause as many as 126,000 employees to lose their access to free contraception.
“In accommodating claims of religious freedom, this Court has taken a balanced approach, one that does not allow the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs,” Ginsburg wrote. “Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree.” Ginsburg was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who also dissented and argued against the rule as a "religious freedom."
The case in question (Trump v. Pennsylvania), was brought forth by Trump Administration in 2018, but it was immediately challenged nationwide by lower courts. After Pennsylvania and New Jersey both successfully blocked the rule’s implementation, the Trump Administration — via the religious nonprofit Little Sisters of the Poor — sent the case to the Supreme Court and asked for a reversal.
This decision is a disappointing blow after the Supreme Court recently ruled in support of communities and individuals regularly attacked by the Trump Administration, including the movements to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to protect LGBTQ+ workers under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But protecting so-called religious agendas over birth control rights could upend that streak.
Reproductive rights activists are already criticizing the decision. “Today's SCOTUS decision on the ACA’s birth control benefit is dangerous & could impact contraceptive coverage for hundreds of thousands of people,” Dr. Herminia Palacio, President of the reproductive rights research and policy organization the Guttmacher Institute, wrote on Twitter. Palacio added that this ruling is “just the latest in a pattern of attacks” on reproductive healthcare.
Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s President and CEO, also slammed the ruling, and wrote that the fight for affordable contraceptive care will continue. “This is not over,” Johnson tweeted. “We will do everything we can to ensure those who need birth control and other sexual and reproductive health care can access it — no matter who you work for, where you go to school, how much money you make, or the color of your skin.”
Planned Parenthood’s political action committee pointed out, via a series of tweets, that this ruling will also disproportionately affect people of color, younger people, and lower-income individuals. “This isn’t accidental,” the committee wrote. “It is yet another part of the network of oppressive tactics that reinforce white supremacy.”