This piece originally appeared on RH Reality Check.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, likely affecting access to contraception for millions of women across the country.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court justices decided that “closely held” for-profit corporations are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception benefit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. This ruling represents a huge blow for the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements and employees across the country that depend on their health benefits to cover the growing cost of health care for their families, and it disproportionately affects a number of vulnerable groups, including families with dependents who rely on birth control and Black women.

One of the major issues argued in the case was around the companies’ desire to deny access to two forms of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and two brands of emergency contraception, which the owners of the corporations believe cause abortions. As RH Reality Check Senior Legal Analyst Imani Gandy has pointed out, the challengers to the contraception mandate simply don’t understand how these forms of contraception operate. The contraceptive methods don’t cause abortion, they prevent pregnancy.

The IUD is considered the most effective contraception available on the market today, but it is expensive, costing anywhere from $500 to $1,000 without insurance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention78 percent of Black women have used birth control pills in their lives, while only 6 percent have tried an IUD. Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, IUDs were cost-prohibitive and Black women were unable to access them without an assist from their health insurance provider.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg noted that accessing contraception would be prohibitive for minimum-wage employees, who earn at little as $7.25 per hour and the majority of whom are women. Black women make up nearly 16 percent of female minimum-wage workers, and policies like this one will disproportionately affect them and the families they support.

“It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage,” Ginsberg writes.

Read the full piece at RH Reality Check.

Renee Bracey Sherman '15

Written by Renee Bracey Sherman '15

Renee Bracey Sherman is a fellow at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) pursuing a master's degree in public administration with a focus on social policy. She is the Digital Editor for The Cornell Policy Review, the Communications Chair for Women in Public Policy, and a student blogger for...
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