What the Supreme Court’s Obamacare Decision Means for Birth Control Litigation

This piece was also posted on ACSblog.

Last week, as the nation paid rapt attention, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.  The decision is especially critical for women, who are more likely to suffer gaps and discrimination in their health care coverage.  Importantly, it means that the contraceptive coverage rule – which ensures access to affordable birth control for millions of women across the country – is still in place.

That same day, the Supreme Court made a second decision about the ACA to a much quieter reception.  The Court declined to hear Seven-Sky v. Holder, a case alleging that the ACA’s individual mandate provision violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute that precludes federal laws from placing a “substantial burden” on religious exercise unless the government has a compelling interest in enacting the law.  Here, the plaintiffs argued that they “believe in trusting in God to protect [them] from illness or injury,” and therefore did not “want to be forced to buy health insurance coverage.”

Both the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in an opinion authored by conservative judge, Laurence Silberman, resoundingly rejected this argument, concluding that there was no substantial burden.  The Supreme Court, in turn, determined that there was no need to review that conclusion.  That’s bad news for groups hoping to radically redefine the meaning of religious liberty and overturn longstanding principles regarding the freedom of religion by challenging the contraceptive coverage rule under RFRA.  If a law requiring an individual to acquire insurance coverage for herself despite claims that it’s contrary to her beliefs doesn’t trigger RFRA, the even more tenuous connection between an employer’s contribution to an insurance plan for its workers and the health services accessed by workers under that plan should certainly be on safe ground.  That’s good news for women.

The 23 lawsuits attacking the contraceptive coverage rule as infringing on the religious liberty rights of employers that want to withhold coverage of birth control from their employees have always been all bark, no bite.  Our courts have long held that institutions that operate in the public sphere are not above the law; the Supreme Court has recognized that allowing employers to get around laws like these can “operate[] to impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees.”  Both the California Supreme Court and New York’s equivalent have dismissed claims that requiring coverage of contraception runs afoul of religious liberty.  After last week’s decision, the plaintiffs’ claims should quiet to a whimper.

Insurance covers a broad range of benefits, some of which any given individual will never use.  The rule simply requires that employers and insurers not deny individuals coverage for contraception.  It’s up to the employee – as it should be – to decide whether to access that coverage in her private life.  That connection is far too tenuous to impose a substantial burden on the employer.  As New York’s highest court explained, there is no “absolute right for a religiously-affiliated employer to structure all aspects of its relationship with its employees in conformity with church teachings.”  It would be akin to allowing a company to dictate how its workers spent their paychecks.  

None of this, of course, is stopping groups like the Becket Fund from promising to press forward with the lawsuits with full force, or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from continuing to condemn the coverage requirement.  But with both law and public health policy on the rule’s side, it’s only a matter of time before we celebrate another court victory for the Affordable Care Act, women, and families.

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My religious belief tells me to let nature take its course dealing with my health. I do not use any type of health care so why should I be forced to have insurance if I have no plans on using it. I believe this is a direct attach on my religious beliefs and my personal beliefs. I think the ACLU needs to defend my rights.


Is there anything that makes it unconstitutional for people who believe in God to have a right to claim that their constitutional rights are being infringed upon by the government forcing us to accept health care and buy insurance solely for the purpose of paying physicians?

The first Amendment to the constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

The part I believe that Obamacare infringes on is "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" a religion. Anyone who believes in God knows that no matter what medicine you are given by a physician, that if you are healed by those medicines is determined solely by God's grace. If he wants you healed you will be healed with medicines, or without medicines. Litigation from the past [United States v. Ballard] Justice Douglas found that ...

" It [religion] embraces the right to maintain theories of life and of death and the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of orthodox faiths . . . . Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines of beliefs".

With that in mind, the government does not actually define religion, but attempts to keep the idea broad so as to not limit the ideas of religion to one particular religion, or a government idea of religion. It's done so that you and I may have our own ideas of what religion is and where we should put our faith. also, you do not have to prove your ideas. However, to prove my idea that the ultimate decision on whether medicine will heal me or not ... I refer to *2 Chronicles 16:12-13* of the Bible of mt religion where the story states ...

"12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. 13 Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors.

This is straight from the bible. Also Jesus healed by touch, and also people were healed by their faith in Jesus alone. Mark 10:52 states ...

"52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Our condition of health is of extreme importance to religion and God. Our faith alone in God's and/or Jesus's powers is our religion. We should have the right to put our faith in God alone to heal us and not rely on medicines which haven't been tested for side effects they may cause on down the line. God views our body's as a temple that we are to take care of. To be forced by the government to either accept their health care or be penalized is simply unfair and an infringement of our constitutional rights. The first amendment was designed to create a wall between church and state [religion and government] and prohibit the government from interfering with the free exercise of that religion. If I get a life threatening illness then it should be my right to put my faith in God without being penalized through taxes for not having insurance. The courts have already determined that Obamacare is a tax. It's a penalty tax and is unconstitutional because it infringes on my right to put full faith in God for my health.

I penalizes me for putting full faith in my God.

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