An appeals courts has given a victory to Christian colleges suing over Obamacare’s requirement that they provide free contraceptives and morning-after pills. But another appeals court has upheld the requirement for Christian-owned businesses.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday sided with Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College in a decision related to the ongoing court challenges to the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. The court said it would hold the Obama administration to its promise to never implement the current birth control mandate and to create a new rule by August, as part of the court decision.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to give it updates every 60 days, beginning in February, until a new rule is issued in August. The lawsuits will be held in abeyance until that time.
“There will, the government said, be a different rule for entities like the appellants,” the court wrote, “and we take that as a binding commitment. The government further represented that it would publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the new rule in the first quarter of 2013 and would issue a new Final Rule before August 2013. We take the government at its word and will hold it to it.”
Sebelius first issued the rule in January. As part of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” she ruled that employers must cover contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs in their health care insurance for employees. There is a religious exemption, but the exemption is so narrow that most religious employers, including religious schools, are not exempt. There have been about 40 lawsuits related to the mandate.
A federal appeals court on Thursday refused to shield Hobby Lobby Stores from the Obama administration’s contraception mandate — and the fines that come with it for not complying — in a blow to the largest employer to challenge the ObamaCare rule.
In response, the Christian-owned company vowed to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
CEO David Green, who had taken his case to the appeals court after losing in a lower-court ruling, had argued that his family would have to either “violate their faith by covering abortion-causing drugs or be exposed to severe penalties.”
The mandate requires businesses and organizations, with some exceptions, to provide access to contraception coverage — Hobby Lobby was most concerned about coverage for the morning-after pill, which some consider tantamount to an abortion-causing drug. Hobby Lobby has refused to comply, while saying the fines could add up to $1.3 million a day. . . .
There are currently more than 40 cases pending against that rule, though the Supreme Court has not yet stepped into the fray.
In its ruling, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the company did not prove the rule would “substantially burden” its religious freedom. Though the mandate has exemptions for religious entities like churches, the lower court ruled that Hobby Lobby is not a religious group.