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SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to strike down a lower court’s ruling that would allow for-profit companies to deny essential healthcare to female employees based on the religious beliefs of the company’s owners.
“Every American deserves access to quality, comprehensive healthcare,” Attorney General Harris said. “A woman’s access to essential services, including contraception, should not be restricted because of the religious views of her employer—particularly when the right to these services is protected under federal law.”
Attorney General Harris’ brief, co-authored by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, urges the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Kathleen Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that held that for-profit businesses may exercise religion and therefore are covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The ruling would deny women coverage for contraception, which is protected under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a critical preventive service.
The brief further asks the Court to affirm the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s ruling in a companion case (Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Kathleen Sebelius) that came to the opposite conclusion and held that for-profit companies could not claim religious exemptions from the ACA coverage requirement.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia joined Attorney General Harris and Attorney General Coakley’s brief, including Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
“Measures adopted by States, and now the federal government, to expand affordable access to contraceptives through health plan coverage provisions are narrowly tailored to further compelling public interests in promoting gender equity and achieving significant health, social, and economic benefits,” the brief states.
A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.