March 25, 2014

WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, cases brought by for-profit companies against the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate. The business owners claim that having their insurance plans cover contraception – as required by the ACA – violates their religious beliefs. Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) issued the following statement:

“Contraception is a key element of women’s health care. The contraceptive mandate in the ACA will help 47 million American women access birth control at no cost to them. These protections are critically important to low-income women and women of color who are more likely to have an unintended pregnancy and resulting disparities in birth and maternal health outcomes.

In the past decade, unintended pregnancy and teen pregnancy has increased for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AAs and NHPI) women. Under the ACA, nearly all insurance plans are required to fully cover contraception, which removes cost barriers that contribute to racial, ethnic and gender disparities in health. The high cost of contraception is likely part of the reason Asian American women have had lower utilization rates of oral contraceptives and are less likely than non-Hispanic women to have ever used birth control.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, access to affordable birth control would be in jeopardy for many women. Unplanned pregnancies present a major public health challenge and have a serious impact on women and children, often coupled with delayed prenatal care, preterm birth and low birth weight. Allowing bosses to interfere with birth control wouldn’t just undermine women’s health, it could also open the door to employer’s denying a whole host of other medical procedures based on their beliefs.

The ACA is the right step for America to take to improve our health care infrastructure. In order to keep us on the path to a healthier country, the Supreme Court must uphold the contraceptive mandate provision in the ACA.”

APIAHF joined the amicus brief of the National Health Law Program, urging the Supreme Court to uphold the birth control benefit and highlighting the disparate impact on low-income women and women of color.