Health Care

Supreme Court again Agrees to Consider Obamacare Contraceptive-Mandate Exemptions

(Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court’s nationwide injunction against its effort to exempt more employers from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against the administration’s 2018 rule expanding employer exemptions beyond religiously affiliated organizations with conscience objections to covering their employees’ birth control. Under the rule, nonprofits, higher-education institutions, publicly traded companies, and other private employers would be newly eligible for an exemption to the contraception mandate. The appeals court decided that the administration did not follow proper procedures in establishing the rule.

Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the administration’s appeal of the Third Circuit’s ruling, in what will be the third time the Court has dealt with legal issues surrounding the mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns that has fought the mandate for years, separately asked the Court to overturn the appeals court’s injunction in its own appeal, which the Court has also agreed to hear. (The two appeals will be consolidated into a single case.) The Little Sisters, a non-profit employer, were previously granted an exemption from the mandate by the Court in 2016.

“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters. “We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all.”

Critics of the administration’s rule argue that employers who refuse to cover the cost of their employees’ birth control are engaging in discrimination.

“Allowing employers and universities to use their religious beliefs to block employees’ and students’ birth control coverage isn’t religious liberty — it’s discrimination,” said Brigitte Amiri, the America Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project’s deputy director.

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