Court rules against ObamaCare birth control mandate

Court rules against ObamaCare birth control mandate
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A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled against ObamaCare’s birth control mandate in a decision that could invite a Supreme Court review.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that four Christian nonprofits should not have to comply with the ObamaCare rule that all employer healthcare plans include contraception options or face a fee. While employers can seek exemptions to the law, the court argued that doing so poses a “substantial burden” on that organization’s religious rights.

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The decision is particularly important because it directly contradicts another federal court’s ruling.

“With today's decisions, the [Supreme] Court will have great reason to decide this issue in the next term,” one religious rights group, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, wrote in a statement Thursday.

The Supreme Court already has several cases involving the birth control mandate it could take up in its fall term.

Conservatives were quick to praise the decision, which reignites a years-long battle against the ObamaCare rule.

"This court ruling is a victory for the rights of freedom and liberty that were critical to our Founding Fathers and American exceptionalism to this day," Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) wrote in a statement Thursday.

The ruling includes 30 references to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the 2014 Supreme Court case that allowed certain for-profit companies to opt out of the mandate. Since that decision, multiple nonprofits, including universities, have taken legal action demanding to be granted the same permissions.

Under ObamaCare, employer healthcare plans are required to cover all federally approved forms of birth control. That includes, as the court notes, emergency contraception that some religious organizations believe is “functionally equivalent to abortion on demand.”

Groups can receive an exemption by writing a letter to the Health and Human Services Department or filling out a two-page form to document their objections. Houses of worships are automatically exempt from the law.

A White House spokeswoman on Thursday said the administration is "disappointed" in the decision, but believes the mandate will ultimately be upheld.

"As all of the other seven courts of appeals to address this issue have held, the contraceptive accommodation process strikes the proper balance between ensuring women have equal access to health care and protecting religious beliefs," the spokeswoman said.

- Updated at 4:56 p.m.