Every few weeks, opponents of birth control manage to garner some media attention by objecting – again – to the federal contraceptive coverage rule, which ensures that millions of women will have affordable insurance coverage for contraception without extra out-of-pocket costs. But time after time, it’s just more of the same.
This week, 12 new lawsuits were filed challenging the rule, doubling those already in play. The lawsuits have made a splash by virtue of their number, but when you take a moment to actually look at them, there’s nothing to see. The rule is constitutional, it violates no federal law, and it’s incredibly important for women.
First principles of First Amendment law, as currently interpreted by the courts, are as follows: the Free Exercise Clause does not require any exemptions from a neutral law of general applicability. As the Supreme Court held two decades ago, in an opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, to do otherwise would be to create a system “in which each conscience is a law unto itself.” Translation? If it applies equally and doesn’t target any faith, it’s not a First Amendment violation. The contraceptive coverage rule applies to everybody and doesn’t target anybody; end of story.