AG Herring Files Comments to Protect Women's Access to Birth ControlPosted: Updated:
Office of the Attorney General Press Release:
RICHMOND (December 6, 2017) - As part of his ongoing efforts to protect women's access to contraception coverage, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in filing comments with the federal Department of Health and Human Services opposing the Trump administration's interim final rules that would roll back birth control coverage.
Attorney General Herring previously filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California with state attorneys general from California, Delaware, Maryland and New York opposing the Trump administration's decision to rollback the requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. He joined 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in a similar suit.
"I am once again joining with my fellow state attorneys general to stand up for women across Virginia and across the country who should have the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions," said Attorney General Mark Herring. "Any attempts to limit that freedom, especially on something as personal as reproductive health, are illegal, irresponsible, and dangerous. I will continue to fight to ensure all women have control over their own reproductive health."
For millions of women the contraception coverage rule has reduced their healthcare costs, helped address medical conditions, and allowed them to make their own decisions about when and if to have children. Before the contraception coverage rule, birth control accounted for 30-44% of a woman's out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Now, 62 million women across the country, including 1.6 million women in Virginia, have access to contraception without a co-pay, saving an average of $255 per year for oral pill contraceptives, and the percentage of women who have a co-pay for contraception has fallen from more than 20% to less than 4%.
In their comments, the Attorneys General argue that the federal rules violate the Establishment Clause by allowing employers to use their own religious beliefs to discriminate against employees; the Equal Protection Clause by specifically targeting and harming women; and the Administrative Procedure Act by pushing through these new rules without proper factual and legal basis. Additionally, the Attorneys General argue that the rules would harm their States by leaving millions of women without access to contraceptives and counseling, and by forcing the States to shoulder the financial and administrative burden as women seek contraceptive access through state programs.
"Since the ACA's requirement that health plans cover contraception benefits and services, women with employer-sponsored coverage have had increased access to contraception, and have saved $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs on birth control pills in 2013 alone. The share of women of reproductive age who had out-of-pocket spending on oral contraceptive pills fell sharply after the ACA's implementation; spending on oral contraceptive pills plummeted from 20.9 percent in 2012 to 3.6 percent in 2014, corresponding to the timing of the contraception provision. Also during this time, the proportion of privately insured women who paid no out-of-pocket costs for oral contraception increased from 15 percent to 67 percent, with similar changes for injectable contraceptives, the vaginal ring and the intrauterine device. To date, over 62.4 million women have benefited from ACA-mandated contraceptive coverage," the Attorneys General wrote.
"The [Interim Final Rules] at issue will result in harms that are both direct and indirect, tangible and intangible. Access to contraception is fundamental to women's rights to bodily freedom and to emotional autonomy. It is a public health issue, with effects on unintended pregnancy, maternal health, and infant morbidity. It also implicates economic mobility and wage parity, educational opportunity and social equality. These far-reaching effects are too great to ignore, and are protected by the Constitution, our laws and regulations. Accordingly, we urge the Secretary to rescind the IFRs."
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing the comments are attorneys general from California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.