Supreme Court will hear ACA contraception coverage case
The Supreme Court will hear yet another challenge to the Affordable Care Act. It comes from religious not-for-profit groups opposed to Obama administration policy that requires them to submit a form to their third-party administrator or provide information to HHS so the government can arrange contraception coverage for their employees.
The justices decided Friday to hear parts of seven cases filed by the groups, which want to opt out of the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate. The plaintiffs say the reporting requirements make them complicit in providing birth control in violation of their religious beliefs.
The government has argued in court documents that the reporting requirements do not impose a substantial burden on the groups, and that the courts should not disregard the “significant interest of employees who may not share” their employers’ religious beliefs.
Seven federal appellate courts have sided with the government’s position, while one has sided with the religious groups. The plaintiffs include the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that operates nursing homes in several states.
Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty that is backing the Little Sisters case, said the government will have to explain why it’s “forcing nuns” to help their employees get contraception. Oral arguments likely will take place in March.
But Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, said the religious groups “are not just trying to exempt themselves from providing contraception, they’re trying to prevent their secular insurers from providing contraception as well, and I don’t think the court is going to go that far.”