Last year the Trump administration significantly expanded exemptions from the ACA's contraceptive coverage in two sets of interim final rules. One set extended the religious exemption to all nongovernmental nonprofit and for-profit employers (including publicly traded companies) with sincerely held religious objections to contraception. A separate set of rules created a new exemption for any nonprofit employer and certain for-profit employers with a moral objection to contraceptives. The expanded exemptions are currently on hold after states that oppose the expansions secured a nationwide preliminary injunction late last year. The ninth circuit (and in the near future the Third Circuit) are hearing appeals in these cases.
Mercer and MMC recently joined the amicus brief in support of women and access to contraception. An amicus brief is a legal document filed in appellate court cases by “friend of the court” non-litigants who have a strong interest in the subject and seek to advise the court of additional information or arguments to consider. As both an employer and a consultant to employers, we have a useful perspective on the subject. The amicus brief emphasized: (1) contraception provides women greater control over their health, well-being, education, and careers, and helps women thrive; and (2) access to contraception supports women’s advancement and economic participation, the talent pool on which businesses rely, and gender diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
Family planning is a cornerstone of maternal and child health. There is ample literature showing the positive impacts that access to family planning has on women’s health and pregnancy spacing has on newborn outcomes. These impacts are so significant that the CDC named family planning as one of the Ten Great Achievements contributing to Public Health in the 20th Century.
In addition, Mercer’s work shows that enabling women’s life choices and economic empowerment has a multiplier effect. In that sense, contraception is good not only for women, but also for their communities, the businesses they build and at which they work, the boards on which they serve, and the national economy.
Our When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive research shows that advancing women in the workforce offers one of the biggest opportunities to impact growth, innovation, community, and vitality. By implementing programs that help women manage their health needs employers can both better leverage the female talent pool and boost productivity and engagement. As we focus on more sophisticated strategies to achieve equity in the workplace, we can’t forget the basics – like affordable access to contraception .
- Ahmed S, Li Q, Liu L, Tsui AO. Maternal deaths averted by contraceptive use: An analysis of 172 countries. The Lancet. 2012;380(9837):111–125.
- Carr, Bob, Melinda French Gates, Andrew Mitchell, and Rajiv Shah. "Giving women the power to plan their families." The lancet 380, no. 9837 (2012): 80-82.
- Becker, Nora V., and Daniel Polsky. "Women saw large decrease in out-of-pocket spending for contraceptives after ACA mandate removed cost sharing." Health Affairs 34, no. 7 (2015): 1204-1211.
- Finer, Lawrence B., and Mia R. Zolna. "Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008–2011." New England Journal of Medicine 374, no. 9 (2016): 843-852.