A federal judge has ruled that an employer can deny PrEP coverage for religious reasons

A federal judge has ruled that a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates coverage for preventive care, including HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and birth control, is unconstitutional on the grounds that such mandates violate “religious freedom”.

US District Judge Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2007 and once tried to overthrow the ACA as a wholerendered its decision on Braidwood vs. Becerra Wednesday. The 42-page decision describes how the plaintiffs, largely a group of Christian business owners in Texas, wanted the ability to purchase health insurance that excludes or limits preventive care coverage. This includes PrEP, contraception, screenings and behavioral counseling for STDs and drug use, and the HPV vaccine, which works to prevent the human papillomavirus as well as several types of cancer.

Despite the fact that the World Health Organization recommends the HPV vaccine for all girls between the ages of 9 and 14, the plaintiffs claimed that they and their families do not need the preventive care mentioned above. . In addition to HPV vaccines, the plaintiffs claimed that mandatory coverage for all of the above procedures “violates their religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use and sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman”.

At this time, it’s unclear whether the ruling applies only to Braidwood Management or whether other business owners could follow suit and adopt insurance coverage that denies its employees coverage for PrEP or birth control, depending on CNN.

The plaintiffs argued that the preventive care mandate was unconstitutional on several fronts. More importantly, they argued that PrEP’s mandate specifically violates the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) and that the Preventive Services Task Force (PSTF), an independent group of expert practitioners who advise on the ACA’s preventive care coverage, is an unconstitutionally named body. Judge O’Connor agreed with the plaintiffs on this claim and even suggested that the organization was “removable at will”.

O’Connor also agreed that the PrEP mandate violates RFRA, adding that the federal government’s interest in stopping the spread of HIV was not compelling enough to override the plaintiff’s religious freedom rights.

And this despite the fact that the WHO still classifies the spread of HIV as one of the global epidemic. In 2020, 30,635 people were diagnosed with HIV in the United States and dependent regions, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Black and Latinx people account for a disproportionate number of these diagnoses, while being among the least likely demographics being on PrEP. It’s largely because of racism and other barriers to culturally competent care.