Attorney General James Fights Trump Admin. Efforts to Strip Women of their Right to Birth Control Coverage Under the ACA

AG James Files Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Case

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her leadership in the national fight to ensure women’s reproductive health care is not stifled or infringed upon in any way by the Trump Administration. Attorney General James and a coalition of 20 additional attorneys general from around the nation filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey in their lawsuit defending the contraceptive coverage and counseling requirement mandated as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the brief — filed in Donald Trump et al. v. Pennsylvania — the attorneys general explain that states have an interest in safeguarding the ACA’s birth control coverage requirement, which has benefited more than 62 million women across the country. The coalition argues that access to affordable birth control is critical to the health, well-being, and economic security of the states’ residents. 

“Employers should never have a role in making reproductive health care decisions for their employees, yet the Trump Administration’s rules do exactly that,” said Attorney General James. “The president has repeatedly worked to pit Americans against each other by using faith as a wedge between us, but our coalition will not allow religion to be used as a tool that divides us. This is about ensuring women retain control of their bodies, their choices, and their freedoms, which is why we will never stop fighting to protect women’s access to the health care they need, deserve, and choose.”

In 2017 and 2018, the Trump Administration issued rules that ignored the ACA’s birth control coverage requirement by allowing employers to deny birth control coverage to their employees based on religious or moral objections. New York and several coalitions of attorneys general defended the ACA’s birth control coverage requirement and obtained injunctions against the Trump Administration’s harmful, illegal rules in the U.S. Court of Appeals for both the Third Circuit and the Ninth Circuit.

The Trump Administration, Little Sisters of the Poor, and March for Life filed petitions for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The court granted the petitions for review of the Third Circuit decision, while the petitions for review of the Ninth Circuit decision are still pending.

In the amicus brief filed today, Attorney General James and the coalition of attorneys general argue that states have a vested interest in ensuring that women have access to seamless contraceptive coverage. Tens of thousands of women will lose access to cost-free contraceptive coverage — one of the preventive benefits guaranteed by the ACA — if employers are allowed to use their own religious or moral beliefs as an excuse to exempt themselves from the ACA’s requirement. This loss of coverage would result in a reliance on state-funded programs — increasing states’ costs and likely leading to an increase in unintended pregnancies nationwide. 

Today’s action is just the latest in a long list of measures Attorney General James has taken to protect women’s reproductive freedom since taking office. Yesterday, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to delay implementation of a final rule that would make it more difficult for women in New York and across the nation to access abortion services under the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the rule jeopardizes health coverage of all consumers confused by its billing practice, as the nation battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The letter follows up on a lawsuit led by Attorney General James in January, and a motion for summary judgement, filed last week, asking the federal courts to immediately rule on the lawsuit.

Last week, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition of attorneys general from around the nation in filing an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, after the State of Texas issued a directive banning nearly all abortion services in the state, using the coronavirus as an excuse.

Also, last week, Attorney General James sent a letter to both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requesting that the Trump Administration waive or utilize its discretion not to enforce its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) designation, which dictates and subsequently impedes women’s access to the medical-abortion prescription drug known as Mifepristone. The attorneys general called on the Trump Administration to ensure that women across the country can more easily access this critical health care service while the pandemic leaves many women unable to seek in-person care.

Earlier in March, Attorney General James called on the federal government and states across the country to ensure women’s access to safe, legal abortions are not jeopardized or curtailed as a result of the spread of COVID-19.

In January, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief, in Reproductive Health Services v. Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, challenging the constitutionality of several recently enacted abortion bans in the State of Missouri.  

Also in January, Attorney General James secured a victory for women in Rochester seeking to have an abortion without being harassed, threatened, or blocked before entering a clinic when a district court judge dismissed a lawsuit by anti-abortion activists seeking to bypass a 15-foot “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility.

Even earlier in January, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit that seeks to protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care without the burdensome restrictions imposed by Arkansas laws. The brief — filed in support of the plaintiffs in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Leslie Rutledge, now before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals — supports the last surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas as it challenges four state laws that would restrict the ability for women in Arkansas to access abortions by banning abortions after 18 weeks and otherwise restricting women’s access to reproductive care. 

In December 2019, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief defending the right to maintain full and equal access to birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act for tens of thousands of women nationwide

Also, in December 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge by petitioners in the case June Medical Services v. Gee — now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court — challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

In October 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against the State of Mississippi, challenging a law that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

In September 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge filed by Kentucky clinics and physicians, challenging a Kentucky law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services using the most common and safest procedure available for women after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

In August 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance against the State of Indiana after the state denied the clinics application for a license to open an abortion clinic that would provide medical abortions in South Bend.

In March 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 21 states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s regulations that threaten essential services provided under federal Title X funding. The rule — also known as the “gag rule” — places an unlawful and unethical restriction on health care providers’ ability to fully inform patients of the reproductive health services available to them by disallowing referrals for abortions and restricting counseling related to abortions. Another provision would require those who perform abortions to physically segregate their services — an expensive and potentially impossible requirement.

Finally, Attorney General James is litigating the appeal in People ex rel. James v. Griepp to ensure that women who enter the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens are not harassed, obstructed, or threatened by protestors

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.