Blunt predicts contraception mandate lawsuits to be decided by Supreme Court

Lawsuits over the Obama administration's contraception mandate will eventually make their way to the Supreme Court, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP debates tax cuts vs. tax reform Five tough decisions for the GOP on healthcare Lacking White House plan, Senate focuses on infrastructure MORE (R-Mo.) predicted Tuesday.

Forty-three religious organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the University of Notre Dame, filed or joined lawsuits Monday that seek to overturn the birth-control mandate. They say it's an unconstitutional encroachment on religious freedom.

"I think these are now in enough different circuits around the country that this will wind up at the Supreme Court, and we'll see what the court believes the Constitution says on this issue," Blunt said at a press conference in the Capitol.

Blunt sponsored a controversial amendment that would have let employers opt out of any healthcare mandate that violates their religious or moral beliefs. The Senate defeated that proposal in March, and Blunt predicted then that the issue might be destined for the Supreme Court.

He said Tuesday that he expects the legal challenges to succeed.

"My guess is they prevail," Blunt said. "This is not an issue that's going to go away."

The issue has faded from the spotlight on Capitol Hill, in part because Democrats appeared to be successfully shifting the terms of the debate away from religious freedom and toward women's health. House GOP leaders had promised to move quickly on a proposal like the Blunt amendment, but they haven't made a sound on the issue since the Senate vote.

In the courts, though, the issue of religious freedom could be more prominent. Blunt noted that lawsuits against the mandate cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the courts to apply a rigorous test to federal laws that even incidentally encroach on religious freedom.

"It's not about any specific healthcare procedure, but it's about religious liberty … this should not be something that the administration should be able to force people of faith to do, no matter what the specific thing is that violates their faith," Blunt said.

The Obama administration's policy requires most companies to cover contraception in their employees' healthcare plans. Churches and houses of worship are exempt. Religious-affiliated institutions like Catholic universities do not have to offer the coverage directly; their workers would get birth control through the employer's insurance company, still without a co-pay.