IU Maurer professor argues ACA contraception mandate benefits women’s health and economic stability

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Another battle over the Affordable Care Act goes before the Supreme Court of the United States today as the justices hear two cases challenging the contraception coverage mandate in the health care law.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 13-354, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, 13-356, raise the issue of whether the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allow a for-profit corporation to deny its employees health insurance for contraceptives based on the owners’ religious opposition to birth control. The ACA includes an exemption for some religious organizations but not for for-profit businesses.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Dawn Johnsen co-authored an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Guttmacher Institute and Sara Rosenbaum, professor at George Washington University, in support of the contraception coverage guarantee. The brief details the harm to women, their families and the public health that would result if the court were to rule in favor of the corporations and argues that the proper interpretation of the law avoids these harms.

The cases before the Supreme Court are not the first challenges to the contraception provision. The University of Notre Dame tried to get a preliminary injunction against the birth control mandate but failed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division and on appeal before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In her brief, Johnsen and her co-author, former acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger, argue that allowing for-profit employers to deny women access to contraceptive coverage will force many women to use birth control methods that are not optimal for their health and are far less effective.

They further argue that the empirical data shows if the court allows employers’ religious objections to limit women’s health care decisions in this way, women not only will suffer economic harm and an affront to their own religious and moral views, they also will experience greater numbers of unintended pregnancies, some of which will end in abortions.


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  1. What Mr. Bir is paying is actually Undifferentiated Family Support, which is a mixture of child support and spousal maintenance. If the courts had labeled accurately labeled the transfer payment, I think that Mr. Bir would have fewer objections to paying it because both Spousal Maintenance and Undifferentiated Family Support are tax deductions for the paying party and taxable to the receiving party. I brought this issue up with my family court judge when my voluntarily unemployed ex-wife was using the 'child support' transfer payment to support both herself and out children. Said family court judge stated that I did not know what I was talking about because I did not have a Juris Doctorate, despite my having a printout with dictionary definitions of the legal terms that I was using for documentation.

  2. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  3. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  4. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  5. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?