Attorney General Becerra Files Brief Defending Women’s Access to Birth Control

Friday, December 20, 2019
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SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend women’s mandated right to reproductive services. In the brief filed in DeOtte v. Azar, the attorneys general explain that States have an interest in safeguarding the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) birth control coverage requirement, which has benefitted more than 62 million women across the country. Access to affordable birth control is critical to the health, well-being, and economic security of the States’ residents. The brief further explains that the federal government has refused to defend the contraceptive mandate and does not adequately represent the States’ and women’s interests.
“A woman’s decisions about her health are between her and her healthcare provider, not her employer and not the President,” said Attorney General Becerra. “More than 62 million woman have benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control coverage to date. The Trump Administration’s decision not to defend the law and this coverage is an affront to women’s ability to access reproductive care, education, jobs and financial empowerment. We will continue to do everything we can to empower women and defend access to reproductive care.”
In 2017 and 2018, the Trump Administration issued rules which ignored the ACA’s birth control requirement and allowed employers to deny birth control coverage to their employees based on their religious and moral objections. California successfully led a coalition of 14 states and Washington D.C. in defending the ACA’s birth control coverage requirement. California obtained injunctions against the Trump Administration’s harmful, illegal rules in the Ninth Circuit and Pennsylvania obtained an injunction in the Third Circuit.  
After California and Pennsylvania won injunctions that protect the birth control coverage mandate, the individual plaintiffs in this lawsuit filed a complaint in the Northern District of Texas challenging the birth control mandate. The Texas court ruled that any employer in the nation can opt out of the mandated birth control coverage without any notice. This broad ruling undermines California and Pennsylvania’s tireless efforts to protect access to birth control coverage.
In the amicus brief, the attorneys general argue that the district court’s decision in DeOtte v. Azar impairs the States’ interests by depriving women of seamless contraceptive coverage. The coalition argues that tens of thousands of women will lose their cost-free contraceptive coverage if employers are allowed to exempt themselves from the ACA requirement. This loss of coverage will result in a reliance on State-funded programs that will increase the States’ costs associated with the provision of reproductive healthcare including an increase in unintended pregnancies. The brief further argues that the federal government’s refusal to defend the ACA’s contraceptive requirement means that the States’ interests are not represented in this case. At the district court level, the Attorney General of Nevada moved to intervene in the Texas case in order to represent the states’ interests, but was denied entry. As a result, the brief urges the Fifth Circuit Court to allow Nevada to intervene in the case to ensure that the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement is properly defended.
Attorney General Becerra joined Massachusetts Attorney General Healey in filing the amicus brief in support of Nevada along with the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

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PDF icon DeOtte v. Azar Amicus Brief.pdf235.46 KB