By Elise Viebeck - 06/12/14 10:13 AM EDT
A U.S. appeals court decided against challengers to ObamaCare's birth control mandate on Wednesday, ruling that the process for obtaining an "accommodation" under the requirement does not substantially burden their religious beliefs.
The decision by 6th Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore deals a blow to Catholic groups who sought an injunction under the requirement that most employers provide free birth control in their health plans. The rule outlines exemptions and workarounds for religious entities.
Moore ruled that the argument lacked merit.
"That is an objection to the later independent action of a third party, not to an obligation imposed on the appellants by the government," she wrote in a ruling Wednesday. "It is not the act of self-certification that causes the insurance issuer and the third-party administrator to cover contraception, it is the law of the United States that does that."
Created under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate has triggered a major legal battle between Catholic groups and the Obama administration.
The "accommodation" outlined for religious groups has launched nearly 60 cases, and the Supreme Court is about to rule on a separate claim against the mandate by for-profit companies with religious owners.
Under the administration's policy, churches and houses of worship are exempt from the mandate. Groups with a religious orientation can self-certify, meanwhile, that they do not wish to cover or pay for birth control. After that, their insurance company or third-party administrator must offer the services at no cost to the groups' female workers.