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NY bill would require contraception change notification

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The June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case continues to reverberate: Abortion advocates in New York introduced a bill this week that would require employers to notify workers in advance about changes in contraception coverage.

Under the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act, employers would have to give their employees 90 days’ notice before changing contraceptive coverage and to notify prospective employees of any contraceptive coverage they offer their employees.

“No woman should have her personal healthcare decisions dictated by the religious beliefs of her boss,” said Eric Schneiderman, state attorney general. 

“As a senator, I fought for a strong law to protect women from discrimination in healthcare coverage, because we must have one set of rules for everyone. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s deeply misguided Hobby Lobby decision, we need to go further to empower the women of New York State with the information they need to make their own health-care choices. That is what the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act would accomplish.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires most employer-provided insurance plans to cover preventive care and screenings for women without any cost-sharing. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations specifying that most employers must cover 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Hobby Lobby covers 16 of those methods for its employees.

In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the retailer and its owners challenged the mandate on the grounds that it violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The act prohibits the federal government from taking an action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless it constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. 

The court found that the act’s protections applied to closely held corporations, not just individuals espousing sincerely held religious beliefs.

It also said the mandate and penalties for noncompliance were substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. The decision assumed that protecting women’s health was a compelling government interest but found the PPACA’s provisions were not the least restrictive means of fulfilling that interest.