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Boulder Joins Nationwide Coalition of 32 Cities and Counties in Signing U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief to Maintain Access to Contraceptive Care

The City of Boulder filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down two Trump Administration rules that would permit employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees and plan beneficiaries. Led by the Cities of Oakland and St. Paul, the brief was joined by 32 cities and counties from across the country.

The Supreme Court is reviewing a lower court decision that invalidated two rules initially issued in October 2017 and finalized in November 2018 creating both religious and moral exemptions to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Under implementing rules to the Women’s Health Amendment of the ACA, employer-sponsored insurance plans -- which provide the majority of private insurance coverage in the country -- must cover all FDA-approved contraception at no cost to plan beneficiaries.

“Access to healthcare is extremely important at all times, but especially during times of crisis,” said Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr.  “That’s why the city council authorized joining with this coalition of cities and counties to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to require employers to continue to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees and plan beneficiaries.  This crucial benefit changes lives.”

In addition to arguing that the moral exemption rule has no legal justification, the brief also discusses the impact of these rules on the delivery of healthcare in many cities and counties. Because some of them serve as the healthcare provider of last resort, people without contraceptive coverage will seek care from city- and county-run clinics. As a result, local governments will be forced to pay for care that would otherwise be covered by private insurance. In addition, as a result of the rules, some individuals will forego contraceptive care, while others will be forced to obtain less effective types of contraception. These impacts may result in other costs to these communities whether they relate to unplanned pregnancies or health needs of children.

As argued in the brief, the rules would impose unnecessary costs on the municipalities and use up precious resources, which is particularly concerning given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For example, some municipal-run clinics are not offering intrauterine devices (“IUDs”) because their insertion or removal may require the use of personal protective equipment, which is being rationed for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The brief was filed in two consolidated cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania v. Trump. Both arise out of the same underlying litigation brought by the state attorneys general of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In that lawsuit, the plaintiff states obtained a nationwide injunction.

Public Rights Project served as counsel of record for the brief, which was co-written by attorneys in the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project at Yale Law School. In addition to the lead cities of Oakland and St. Paul, the following cities and counties signed the brief:

  • City of Alameda, California
  • Alameda County, California
  • City of Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • City of Austin, Texas
  • City of Baltimore, Maryland
  • City of Boulder, Colorado
  • City of Chicago, Illinois
  • City of Cincinnati, Ohio
  • City of Columbus, Ohio
  • Cook County, Illinois
  • City of Dayton, Ohio
  • City of Holyoke, Massachusetts
  • City of Houston, Texas
  • King County, Washington
  • City of Madison, Wisconsin
  • Marin County, California
  • Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
  • Monterey County, California
  • City of New York, New York
  • City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • City of Providence, Rhode Island
  • City & County of San Francisco, California
  • Santa Clara County, California
  • City of Seattle, Washington
  • Shelby County, Tennessee
  • City of Somerville, Massachusetts
  • City of Stockton, California
  • Travis County, Texas
  • City of West Hollywood, California

Published: April 8, 2020

Media Contact:

Bryan Rachal, Media Relations, 303-441-3155