Today, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a case that has the potential to limit access to reproductive health care and Texas officials are hoping for a win.
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Taking on the federal Health and Human Services Department, craft supplier chain store, Hobby Lobby and furniture supplier, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, argue they should not have to cover employee's contraceptive care— directly intrauterine devices (IUDs) and morning after pills— based on their conservative Christian religious views. The argument is a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate, which requires for-profit companies to cover at least a portion of their employee's contraceptive prescriptions under health insurance plans. (Churches are exempt and religious organization can opt out of the mandate.)
Texas, rife with ACA opponents and a legislature that's crippled the women's health network, is behind the crafts store. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and heads of 20 other states signed a legal brief in support of Hobby Lobby's argument. A handful of Texas Congressional Republicans also signed on in support of the religious freedom exemption for private companies, including Reps. Steve Stockman, Ted Poe and Pete Olson, as did U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Tea Party favorite, Ted Cruz.
If the store is victorious, the case is expected to lend corporations increased power to deny women health care coverage. As NARAL Pro-Choice president Ilyse Hogue wrote in a statement, "[i]f the Supreme Court rules the wrong way, it could set a precedent of workers being held at the mercy of corporations—opening the door to even further discrimination."
In Texas, access to birth control is already severely limited. A New England Journal of Medicine article noted after massive GOP-led legislative budget cuts in 2011, the majority of family planning clinics in the state (which were reduced by 76 centers following the hefty reductions) "have restricted access to the most effective contraceptive methods [such as IUDs] because of their higher up-front costs." As a result, remaining clinics now rarely offer IUDs or implants.