FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 9, 2020
CONTACT: Christina Adeleke, email@example.com
Amicus Brief on Trump v PA Warns Religious Exemptions Would Harm People Living with HIV & Hepatitis
Coronavirus pandemic highlights friction between religious liberty and public health; yet the Administration still fights for religious exemptions to contraception and other essential, life-saving care.
(RALEIGH, NC – April 9, 2020) – On Tuesday, the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) and fourteen other organizations filed an amicus brief warning that religious and moral exemptions to covering essential and life-saving preventive care harm people living with or at risk for HIV, hepatitis C, and other chronic conditions. Even while religious gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic undermine government efforts to “flatten the curve” and protect public health, the Administration continues to push the limits of religious liberty in the U.S. Supreme Court case Trump v. Pennsylvania.
“We’re proud to stand with other HIV advocates across the country in speaking out about the importance of accessing contraceptive care. Expanding religious exemptions in the context of contraceptives paves the way for objections to preventative care for HIV like PrEP and PEP,” says Lee Storrow, executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network.
Trump v. Pennsylvania (consolidated with Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania) considers a challenge to the Administration’s rule that expands religious and moral exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandate that insurers cover the full cost of contraceptive care. The rule would allow employers and other entities that object to birth control the right to strip away coverage without ensuring alternative arrangements for access. The case was scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 29, 2020, but has since been postponed.
The brief illustrates how such sweeping exemptions from the mandate would harm people living with chronic conditions. For many people living with HIV, hepatitis C, hypertension, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, contraceptives are an important part of managing their health. “Women and people of transgender experience living with HIV have been denied the bodily autonomy to create families of our choice since the beginning of the epidemic,” commented Venita Ray, Deputy Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA. “These choices should never be limited by another’s personal beliefs. Access to safe, legal, affordable contraception is an integral component of health care, and we condemn any policy, like this one, that seeks to dictate or influence what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.”
The brief highlights how the ACA’s preventive services mandate promotes access to essential health care services, and warns of the barriers that inevitably would be erected by extensions of the Administration’s rules. “Uniform coverage of these services is necessary to address the many health disparities we see across race, geography, and socioeconomic class,” said Linda Dixon, Health Law Director at the Mississippi Center for Justice. “When the government allows objectors to block meaningful access to preventive care, people face financial and administrative barriers that discourage preventive care and can result in worsened health outcomes.”
The government plays a central role in promoting public health, and the ACA’s preventive services mandate is sound public health policy. This Supreme Court case underscores the importance of meaningful limits to religious liberty when such liberty exposes others to disastrous consequences.
The amicus brief was submitted by: the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School; AIDS Alabama; AIDS Foundation of Chicago; AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania; American Academy of HIV Medicine; Cascade AIDS Project (Portland, Oregon); Community Catalyst, Inc.; Equality California; Hepatitis Education Project; Legacy Community Health; Mississippi Center for Justice; National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable; North Carolina AIDS Action Network; Positive Women’s Network-USA; Southern AIDS Coalition; and Treatment Action Group.
The amicus brief is here: https://bit.ly/CHLPIetalAmicus.