After SCOTUS ruling, Brinks pushes for birth control coverage

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that some employers can opt out of contraceptive coverage based on religious or moral beliefs, a West Michigan senator is renewing calls to pass state legislation she first introduced last year.

The Wednesday ruling upholds a move by the Trump administration rolling back coverage requirements put in place by the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA always included an opt-out for religious entities, the move expands that option to more companies.

“In the past under the ACA, there has been a balance struck between the rights of the employer with religious beliefs as well as the rights of the woman to receive the medical care she needs,” state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said.

“That now, with this most recent Supreme Court decision, has been called into question and really this Supreme Court has decided that the religious beliefs of an employee trump the individual medical rights of the patient,” she continued.

Last year, Brinks introduced a bill before the Republican-controlled Legislature that would require insurance companies cover all forms of birth control approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The measure, Senate Bill 388, hasn’t moved since June 2019.

“It is clearly not a priority of the majority party, Republicans, at this time to defend reproductive rights and take a stand on behalf of their constituents in this regard. We’ve requested a committee hearing and have not been granted one,” Brinks said. 

While some disagree with Wednesday’s ruling, religious institutions like Cornerstone University hail it as a victory. After the mandates first went into effect nearly a decade ago, the Grand Rapids college filed a federal lawsuit in 2013 and won in 2018.

“Frankly winning that case years ago and having it confirmed here this week was really important in confirming and underscoring that religious institutions ought to be able to hold to the values and the beliefs that they have,” Vice President of University Advancement Bob Sack told News 8. 

He said the university’s stance wasn’t rooted in opposition to all forms of birth control.

“There’s a difference between contraceptives and abortifacients and our concern was that we were forced by the government, back in that day, to cover in our insurance programs the abortifacients,” Sack explained. “That clearly is a contradiction to what we believe and what we value at Cornerstone University and other Christian colleges around the country.”