A federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled on Thursday that the contraception coverage mandate required by the Affordable Care Act and paid for by a government subsidy, as well as the opt-out process for religiously affiliated employers, violates the employers’ religious freedom.
That coverage, which is paid for by a government subsidy, was struck down by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals after four Christian nonprofits- Heartland Christian College, CNS International Ministries Inc, Dordt College and Cornerstone University- filed lawsuits against it, noting that they object to emergency contraceptives.
The court ruled that the employers should not have to include contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans, and that forcing the employees to seek individual exemptions to the law, puts a “substantial burden” on their religious rights.
The Hill reported that the court’s ruling “includes 30 references to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the 2014 Supreme Court case that allowed certain for-profit companies to opt out of the mandate,” which led to several nonprofits filing lawsuits seeking the same permission.
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The current law states that employers must provide contraceptive coverage for their employees or they must pay a fine, and if they choose to go through the process of opting out of the requirement, the coverage has to be provided by the insurers.
The Associated Press reported that since Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, “roughly 100 lawsuits from businesses and religiously affiliated colleges, hospitals and other not-for-profit organizations” have been filed, challenging the contraceptives requirement.
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In response to the ruling, a spokeswoman for the White House said that the Obama administration is “disappointed” and claimed that “as all of the other seven courts of appeals to address this issue have held,” the current process “strikes the proper balance between ensuring women have equal access to health care and protecting religious beliefs.”
Reuters noted that this court’s decision differs from all other appeals courts that have considered the issue, which makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will issue a ruling at some point in its coming term, between October and June.