SCOTUS Refuses to Rule On a Birth Control Case

How the non-decision from the Supreme Court might affect your access to birth control coverage


In case you've missed it, we're in the midst of an ongoing battle for birth control coverage, and both sides of the argument are duking it out at the Supreme Court level. (In related news, More Women Are Googling DIY Abortions.)

But the latest decision-or should we say non-decision-from the U.S. Supreme Court is pretty unusual and could impact what your access to contraception will look like going forward. (Psst...Here's How to Find the Best Birth Control for You.)

On Monday, the Supreme Court evaded ruling on a case that would decide if religiously affiliated non-profits will be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. Rather than rule on the hot button issue, the Court (which remember is currently only made up of eight judges) decided to hand the case back to lower appeals courts.

The unusual non-ruling does, however, come with a recommendation and strong endorsement from the evenly split judges that the lower appeals courts rule in favor of a compromise. In this case, that means employees of these religious groups would be allowed to receive insurance coverage for birth control, but the religious employers would not be required to directly provide it. This is basically what the current deal is, but a group of religious organizations sued, stating this provision of Obamacare still violated their beliefs (hence why we're hearing about it in the Supreme Court).

So what does this mean for your access to contraceptive care? Although not an outright win for the religious groups who brought the suit, it's certainly not a win for those seeking birth control coverage either. The non-ruling will continue to permit the government to supply insurance with contraceptive coverage to employees of these religious organizations; the government would arrange coverage directly with the insurance provider, leaving the employer out of it. But it also means that the Supreme Court isn't sticking up for reproductive rights and fining employers who refuse to provide access to birth control.

Another issue? The Supreme Court justices are basically declaring themselves useless on the issue of reproductive health until a 9th tie-breaking judge is appointed. Overall, this is a lose-lose.

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