Federal Judge Dismisses Contraception Coverage Lawsuit
A federal judge in Nebraska dismissed a federal lawsuit yesterday that sought to block part of the new healthcare policy that will require insurance plans to cover birth control with no co-pays. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys general in seven states - Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas, claimed that the contraception mandate violates First Amendment rights guaranteeing religious freedom.
U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom sided with the U.S. Justice Department in dismissing the case, saying that the states lacked legal grounds to sue over this provision and face no immediate harm from the having to offer the coverage.
Urbom stated, "Although the rule that lies at the heart of the plaintiffs' complaint establishes a definitive, final definition of 'religious employer,' the ACA's contraceptive coverage requirements are not being enforced against non-exempted religious organizations, and the rule is currently undergoing a process of amendment to accommodate these organizations."
The federal government has provided an exemption for religious institutions from birth control coverage under their insurance policies by requiring the insurance companies to cover the cost. It has also delayed enforcement of the provision until August 2013, though for non-religious institutions it will go into effect next month.
Media Resources: Reuters 7/17/12; Ms. Magazine 7/17/12; Huffington Post 7/17/12; Journal Star 7/17/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .