Supreme Court won't block Obama health law's contraception mandate

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block the Obama administration's contraception mandate from taking effect.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request for an emergency injunction that would have shielded employers from the mandate.

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The request was filed by Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain. The company's Catholic owners say the contraception mandate violates their religious freedom.

Hobby Lobby might eventually win on that point, Sotomayor said, but the company didn't meet the standard for an injunction blocking the mandate from taking effect.

The administration's policy requires most employers to include contraception in their employees' healthcare policies, without charging a co-pay or deductible. Churches and houses of worship are exempt, and religious-affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals don't have to cover contraception directly. (Their insurance companies cover the cost of making it available at no cost to the employee.)

But some Catholic employers say they should be able to opt out of the mandate simply because it violates their personal faith, no matter what type of business they run.

Hobby Lobby had asked the Supreme Court for an emergency injunction preventing the contraception mandate from taking effect as scheduled on Jan. 1. Lower courts have split on narrow requests for case-by-case exceptions, so Hobby Lobby said the court should block the mandate and immediately hear arguments about whether the policy is constitutional.

Although the court declined to block the contraception policy from taking effect, Hobby Lobby can still pursue its First Amendment arguments.

"While the applicants allege they will face irreparable harm if they are forced to choose between complying with the contraception-coverage requirement and paying significant fines, they cannot show that an injunction is necessary or appropriate to aid our jurisdiction," Sotomayor wrote in a short opinion rejecting Hobby Lobby's request.

The petition was filed to Sotomayor because she oversees the federal circuit where Hobby Lobby is challenging the mandate.