Appeals court rules in favor of ObamaCare birth control mandate

A U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday that a for-profit manufacturing corporation must cover birth control in its employee health plan despite the religious beliefs of the company's owners. 

The decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals represents a victory for the Obama administration in a series of ongoing fights over the contraception policy, which critics see as a violation of religious freedom.

The case began when Autocam, an automotive and medical manufacturer, sued the government over ObamaCare's requirement that it cover a range of birth control methods in its employee health plan. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The company's owners are practicing Catholics who see contraception as immoral and believe that some drugs covered under the rule cause abortions.

On Tuesday, the three-judge panel sent the case back to the district court with orders to dismiss the challenge.

Judge Julia Smith Gibbons argued that complying with the birth control mandate is up to Autocam, not its owners, and that the company cannot engage in "religious exercise."

"We dismiss the claims of the individual plaintiffs on standing grounds," Gibbons wrote.

The birth control mandate has inspired a wave of lawsuits since 2011, when it was announced in regulations.

U.S. appeals courts have ruled on three cases so far — siding with the administration twice and the plaintiffs once. The difference of opinion means the Supreme Court could decide the mandate's fate.

The policy is designed to ensure that most working women have access to free birth control in their health plans.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt, and the employees of religiously affiliated institutions will be able to obtain birth control directly from their insurance companies.

Liberal groups hailed the court's decision Tuesday.

"Companies cannot break the law by withholding coverage for health services just because they have a religious objection," said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement.