DeWine brief argues that discriminating against
female employees’ health rights is “as American as apple pie.”
COLUMBUS – In response to this morning’s arguments from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in favor of allowing employers to deny female employees access to birth control through their health plans, Ohio Democratic Deputy Communications Director Brian Hester released the following statement:
“Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled States could not prevent married couples from being counseled on birth control. Now, DeWine and his band of Republican Attorneys General are attempting to reverse that decision by allowing for-profit corporate employers the ability to deny women access to medically prescribed birth control care. A woman’s personal health decision belongs between her and her doctor, without the intrusion of her employer, or politicians like Mike DeWine. This is another case of Mike DeWine being wrong on the issues, and wasting Ohioans’ tax dollars to pursue his partisan, political agenda.”
A recent national poll found that 53% of Americans say employers should not be exempt from the birth control mandate, even if the employer claims it has religious objections.
The U.S. Supreme Court held it was unconstitutional for a State to ban counseling married couples regarding birth control in 1965. The United States Supreme Court held in the 1965 case, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), that the U.S. Constitutional conferred an individual right of privacy that forbade the State from interfering with the private right of a patient to discuss medical issues, such as birth control, with a health professional.
DeWine’s amicus brief is signed by 19 other State Attorneys General—all Republicans. The amicus brief filed in the Hobby Lobby case lists Mike DeWine’s Office as the lead counsel representing 20 States, all of whom enter the case on behalf of their Republican Attorney Generals. DeWine has been participating in such cases even when they have not involved any Ohio law or Ohio party. [Source: Brief of Amici Curiae States of Michigan, Ohio and 18 Other States for Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, Mardel in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 13-354, 13-356.]
DeWine’s brief argues that allowing secular, for-profit corporations to deny female employees access through their health insurance to birth control care is as “American as apple pie.” After equating denying health insurance coverage of birth control to a Jewish-owned deli that does not sell non-kosher foods, DeWine’s brief claimed: “The idea is as American as apple pie.” [Source: Amicus Brief at pg 3.]
DeWine’s brief largely rests on claiming that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits for-profit, secular companies to deny female employees access to birth control. DeWine’s main argument is that Congress meant for the RFRA to apply to for-profit corporations when it comes to their employee health insurance benefits. [Source: Amicus Brief at pg 5.]
Arizona and Ohio recently rejected enacting a State version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, which would have given corporations in Arizona the ability to assert religious reasons for engaging what otherwise would be considered discriminatory actions. [Source: AZ Central (2/26/2014), “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes Senate Bill 1062.”]
In response to the controversy over Arizona’s legislation, the Ohio sponsors of HB 376, which also would have enacted a State version of the federal RFRA, withdrew the legislation from consideration by the General Assembly. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (2/26/2014), “Bill sponsors agree to scrap Ohio version of Arizona’s controversial religious freedom bill.”]
53% of Americans oppose exempting employers from the birth control mandate, even if the the employer objects for religious reasons. The latest NBC/WSJ poll taken March 5-9 found that 53% of American adults “say employers should not be exempt from the requirement that their health plans offer birth control and other contraceptives even if they have religious objections.” [Source: NBC News (3/19/2014), “Poll: Majority Opposes Employers Opting Out of Contraception Mandate.”]
DeWine attempted to inject his office in a contraception case in Nebraska involving no Ohio parties. The week following his endorsement of Rick Santorum for President, DeWine filed an amicus brief on behalf of seven Republican state Attorneys General seeking to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s provisions mandating birth control coverage. [Source: Reuters (2/24/2012), “DeWine joins lawsuit over Obama birth-control rule.”]
The Nebraska lawsuit was dismissed by a federal court judge for the parties’ lack of standing. In July 2012, a federal judge dismissed the Nebraska lawsuit holding that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring a lawsuit to challenge the contraception provisions of the Affordable Care Act. [Source: Lincoln Journal Star (7/17/2012) “Judge tosses out contraception lawsuit filed by Nebraska, six other states.”]
In September, the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected DeWine’s challenge to the same contraception provisions in a Michigan case. In Autocam v. Sebelius (6th Cir. Case No. 12-2673, an unanimous panel ruled that the plaintiffs, like the district court did in the Nebraska case, lacked standing. [Source: U.S. Sixth Circuit Opinion, Autocam v. Sebelius (9/17/2013), Case No. 12-2673. As found: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/13a0278p-06.pdf.]