Supreme Court Tells Court of Appeals to Revisit Birth Control Rule Decision

March 9, 2015 1:45 pm

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NEW YORK – The Supreme Court of the United States has instructed a federal appeals court to revisit its rejection of the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision.

The ACA requires contraception to be included in all health plans, but it also grants an accommodation to nonprofit institutions with a religious objection. Under the accommodation, these institutions can certify an objection to the contraception coverage, and a third party then provides the coverage.

Notre Dame has objected to this requirement, arguing that simply filling out the form to notify its insurance company, or other relevant third party, violates its religious beliefs.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and it should be protected,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “But it’s absurd to assert that simply filling out a form stating an objection violates religious freedom. What Notre Dame and others really object to is women getting the contraceptive coverage they need. That’s discrimination, plain and simple.”

Notre Dame asked the Supreme Court to take its case after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied its request for an injunction, ruling that Notre Dame’s religious beliefs were not violated by having to send a form to its insurance company. Every other federal court of appeals to address this question to date, including the 3rd, 6th, and D.C. Circuit, has reached the same conclusion.

This case follows the Supreme Court’s decision last term holding that closely held for-profit corporations can refuse to comply with the ACA contraception rule on religious grounds. In that case, a majority of the court suggested that the nonprofit accommodation provided a less restrictive means to ensure female employees receive the contraceptive coverage the law guarantees them.

The case now returns to the 7th Circuit for further consideration.

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