(Reuters) – The Biden administration on Thursday warned U.S. businesses and health insurance providers that limiting coverage of contraceptives, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, would violate federal law.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, requires insurance plans to provide free birth control and family-planning counseling to insured individuals and their dependents.
HHS, joined by the U.S. Department of Labor, said it has seen an increase in complaints from women who have been denied coverage for different forms of birth control since the Supreme Court’s June ruling.
“With abortion care under attack, it is critical that we ensure birth control is accessible nationwide and that employers and insurers follow the law and provide coverage for it with no additional cost,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
The Supreme Court last month overturned its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which had established a legal right to obtain an abortion.
About half of U.S. states have banned or limited or are expected to ban or curtail abortions as a result of the ruling, and some may also move to restrict access to birth control.
HHS in the guidance issued on Thursday said insurance providers must continue providing coverage for contraceptives even in states that ban them.
The Supreme Court in 1965 said married couples have a constitutional right to buy and use contraceptives, and extended that to unmarried people in a 1972 decision.
But conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion last month that the court’s reasoning in overturning Roe v. Wade could also apply to birth control.
HHS on Thursday said that in 2020, 58 million U.S. women benefited from Obamacare’s contraception coverage mandate, saving billions of dollars in out-of-pocket spending.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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