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Attorney General William Tong



Coalition of 22 Attorneys General File Amicus Brief in Fifth Circuit in Support of Continued Coverage for Contraception

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong joined 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief defending the rights of tens of thousands of women across the country to full and equal access to birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.

The amicus brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Richard W. DeOtte et al. v Alex M. Azar, in his official capacity as Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al.. In this case, the state of Nevada has sought to intervene and defend the contraceptive mandate, because the federal government has declined to defend the mandate and effectively agreed to an order from the court that permanently bars them from enforcing this critical part of the Affordable Care Act. Nevada’s motion to intervene was denied by the lower court, and the states argue that this motion should have been granted. The states also argue that the order enjoining enforcement of the contraceptive mandate should be reversed.

"Women deserve equal, unfettered access to birth control regardless of where they work. Nothing in the Affordable Care Act infringes upon an employer's religious freedom, a finding that has been upheld by courts across the country. Efforts by the Trump Administration to regulate women's personal health choices are harmful and unlawful and must be struck down," said Attorney General Tong.

Under the Affordable Care Act and federal regulations, employers that have a religious objection to birth control may file a simple, one-page form to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage for their employees and dependents. Employees and dependents maintain access to contraceptive coverage through their health insurers and third-party administrators. The ACA gives more than 55 million women in the United States, access to birth control with no out-of-pocket costs.

The brief notes that the Fifth Circuit and seven other U.S. courts of appeals have already rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the mere act of opting out of providing contraceptive coverage substantially burdens their exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The plaintiffs’ arguments are in line with those the Trump Administration currently makes to justify new regulations that authorize employers with a religious or moral objection to block their employees and their employees’ dependents from receiving insurance coverage for contraceptive care and services.

A nationwide injunction obtained by Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stopped these regulations from going into effect while litigation is pending, and a second injunction obtained by California and group of 13 other states in the Northern District of California and affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit also has blocked the regulations in those states.

The attorneys general of California, 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 joined the brief led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

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