What the Supreme Court ruling means for us | Editorial

Here at the Sounder, we pride ourselves on covering news that pertains to our communities.

And sometimes there is a national news story that has local implications.

On June 30, the Supreme Court struck down a component of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that family-owned businesses do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage if it conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.

In the words of Justice Ruth Ginsburg: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

In her dissent, she also wrote: “Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?”

We are deeply saddened by the Supreme Court’s decision. We think it is a major step backwards in the separation of church and state and in strengthening preventative care for unwanted pregnancy.

But we would like to remind everyone about Washington state’s stance on contraceptives and explain how the pill is covered by the ACA.

In our state, all minors are allowed to get birth control without their parents’ consent. Also through a Planned Parenthood program called Take Charge, women, men and teens can get birth control, medical exams and counseling about when or if to have children – all free of charge if you qualify.

In addition, if you have health coverage through the ACA – anywhere in the country – you can receive free birth control prescriptions. This is considered preventative care under the new ACA health care laws.

And if you work for a company that does NOT have religious objections to contraceptives and you are on its insurance plan, you will receive birth control free of charge – your insurance must cover the full cost, by law.

How many people this ruling will affect remains to be seen. According to the Washington Post, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that 85 percent of large employers already offered contraception coverage before the ACA required it.

Some interesting background: from 2003 to 2005 Washington state launched a program that authorized pharmacists to provide birth control pills to women without a prescription from a physician. The conclusion was, “Community pharmacists can efficiently screen women for safe use of hormonal contraceptives and select appropriate products.”

To read the full case study, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18359734.

Maybe someday the United States will catch up to the other countries that currently offer birth control over the counter.

But in the meantime, we are grateful that Washingtonians can prevent unwanted pregnancies with free contraceptives through Planned Parenthood.