Supreme Court to Hear New Case on Contraception and Religion

6 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Battle Over Obamacare Birth-Control Coverage Returns to High Court.

The latest “Obamacare” case involves objections by faith-based hospitals, colleges and charities to the process the administration devised to spare them from paying for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans, and yet ensure that those women can obtain birth control at no extra cost. The justices on Friday accepted challenges to an Obama administration compromise for providing birth-control coverage to workers at Christian-affiliated institutions.The Supreme Court said Friday it will hear lawsuits from religious nonprofits who say the Obama administration didn’t go far enough when it tried to carve them out of its birth-control mandate on employers.The case concerns regulations under President Obama’s health care law that require most employers to provide free insurance coverage for contraceptives to female workers.

Seven out of eight federal appeals courts have agreed with the administration that requiring the faith-based groups to make their objection known and identify their insurer or insurance administrator does not violate a federal religious freedom law. Among the cases the high court agreed to review was the one brought by Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order that runs nursing homes.

The justices agreed to take on seven cases brought by faith-based colleges and ministries from across the country, marking the fourth time that a skirmish over Obamacare has made it to the Supreme Court. The regulations say the insurance must cover preventive services, including all forms of contraception approved for women by the Food and Drug Administration. The group is asking justices to overturn a lower-court ruling requiring it to comply with the federal government’s mandate that employee healthcare plans provide coverage for free contraceptives. Pitched as a boon for women’s health, the rules quickly spawned controversy, with dozens of religious nonprofits and devout business owners filing suit.

Houses of worship, including churches, temples and mosques, are automatically exempt from the contraceptive coverage requirement and do not have to file any paperwork. Under that policy, faith-based universities and charities notify either their insurers or the federal government of their objection to providing contraception, and the insurers or plan administrators would then step in and make sure employees can get contraception without the religious charity having to pay for it. The new case concerns a second category of institutions — nonprofit groups like schools and hospitals that are affiliated with religious organizations. It allows the nonprofit groups to forgo paying for coverage and avoid fines if they inform their insurers, plan administrators or the government that they seek an exemption.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, most employers have to include birth-control coverage in their health insurance plans, with no out-of-pocket costs for employees. But the groups challenging the arrangement say that filling out a form or sending a letter is unacceptable because it makes them complicit in conduct that violates their faith. For other religious-affiliated nonprofit groups such as hospitals and schools, the administration argues that the accommodation creates a generous moral and financial buffer between religious objectors and funding birth control. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit sided with the nonprofits in September, creating the type of circuit split that makes cases ripe for Supreme Court review. Under the 1993 law, government requirements that place a substantial burden on religious practices are subject to an exceptionally demanding form of judicial scrutiny.

For instance, he wrote, “the government could pay for the distribution of contraceptives at community health centers, public clinics and hospitals with income-based support.” The court granted seven separate petitions, among them Zubik v.

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