June 30, 2014

Speaker Silver Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision Allowing Employers to Deny Reproductive Health Coverage on the Basis of Religious Beliefs

The Assembly Majority has long held that decisions as personal as reproductive health choices belong to the individual and the individual alone. Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the contraceptive coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act for closely-held corporations - such as Hobby Lobby - is extremely troubling and goes against everything we have fought for in the battle to protect a woman's right to access reproductive health coverage.

The religious and personal beliefs of an employer should never get in the way of deciding what is personally best for a woman's health and yet the Supreme Court has ultimately chosen to put these critical personal decisions in jeopardy.

Without the insurance coverage required by the Affordable Care Act, many women simply cannot afford the most effective means of birth control or the high costs of family planning, including the long and expensive rounds of infertility treatments many women and their partners must undergo in order to start a family. Today's decision denies women equal access to these services, puts the health of thousands of women at risk and sets the unfortunate and disturbing precedent that a woman's reproductive health decisions are not hers to make.

Today's setback comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's disappointing decision last week to strike down reproductive clinic buffer zones. Together, these two determinations underly the ongoing threat to full women's equality in Washington. Now more than ever, there is a greater need to fight to protect a woman's reproductive health choices in New York.

In addition to passing all 10 points of the Women's Equality Act two years in a row, the Assembly recently passed legislation, known as the "Boss bill," that would prevent an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of the employee's (or a dependent's) reproductive health decisions, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service. It also would prohibit discrimination based on an employer's personal beliefs about such services.

While the "Boss bill" and the Women's Equality Act have both been stalled in the Senate, today's Supreme Court decision reaffirms the urgency and necessity of ensuring that these types of protections for women's reproductive health choices are preserved in our state, despite the unfortunate barriers presented in Washington.