Saturday is Women’s Equality Day, when Americans mark the anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. It’s a welcome opportunity to reflect on how far our nation has advanced in the fight for equal rights. And it’s a stark reminder of just how far we have left to go.
As new federal regulations reportedly are imminent that would gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraceptives, two Trump administration attorneys who fought for employers to be able to cite religious beliefs as justification to deny women access to vital health care have been in the news recently.
A leaked order indicates that the Trump administration is planning to allow businesses to refuse to cover birth control in health care plans if the employer has a religious or moral objection to it.
Under the Trump plan, there is no provision for women who lose access to contraceptives. They’re out of luck. Rather than provide for them, Trump and his Religious Right allies are attacking Planned Parenthood, an organization that assists women who need help paying for birth control.
Late Thursday, Americans United told a federal appeals court that women would be severely harmed by the Trump administration’s proposed change to the current requirement that health insurance cover contraceptives, a change that would allow employers and universities to use religion as an excuse to deny contraceptive coverage completely.
In early May, President Donald J. Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by signing an executive order that was aimed at allowing bosses and universities to use religion as an excuse to deny their employees and students insurance coverage for contraception.
President Donald Trump’s latest executive order is a direct attack on religious freedom, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“Exploiting the National Day of Prayer to trample religious freedom highlights Trump’s zeal to substitute showmanship for sincerity,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn. “Today, the president pandered to his far-right fundamentalist base, upending protections for houses of worship and allowing religion to be used as an excuse to deny women coverage for contraception and other preventive health care.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in March spoke to a Catholic lawyers’ association and promoted the idea, common among the Religious Right, that religious liberty is under attack in America.
“A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs,” Alito said, referencing the Bob Dylan song lyric, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
Neil Gorsuch was sworn in this past Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court’s 113th justice, and his impact on pending religious freedom cases could be felt as early as next week.
On Monday, the court could announce whether it will grant review of the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. For months, court watchers have been waiting to see whether the high court will take this case involving a Colorado baker who cited his religious beliefs as justification to discriminate against a same-sex couple by refusing to bake them a wedding cake.
The U.S. Senate today voted 54-45 to confirm Neil Gorsuch for a seat on the Supreme Court.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued the following statement:
“Neil Gorsuch has demonstrated that he does not respect the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, which is the foundation of religious freedom in America. I am gravely concerned he’ll vote to erode that principle and put one of our nation’s most essential liberties at risk.”
Think of a bill, and the people who pass it, and you likely imagine the U.S. Congress. Our federal legislative body occupies significant media space and not without reason; it wields significant influence. It can respond to executive and judicial actions and shapes our political future.
But state legislatures are arguably as important as their federal equivalent. Many are also dominated by a conservative wing of the Republican Party that frequently promotes the Religious Right’s priorities. That’s reflected by a spate of recent legislation.