Circuit court blocks Obamacare ‘contraception mandate’

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Roman Catholic employers – including the owners of an Indiana company – won a Circuit Court ruling Friday blocking the “contraception mandate” contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

A split panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, reaffirmed its earlier preliminary injuction in one of the farthest-reaching rulings on an issue that has divided federal circuits and almost certainly will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Friday’s order grants an injunction against enforcement of the mandate that requires employers to provide universal access to birth control.

The panel’s consolidated ruling was granted in two cases, William D. Grote III et al, v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al, and Cyril B. Korte et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al.

Grote Industries, a Madison-based maker of vehicle safety systems, successfully claimed that requiring the company to provide contraception coverage through its self-insured health care plan violated its owners’ First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

“The plaintiffs are not asking the government to pay for anything. They are asking for relief from a regulatory mandate that coerces them to pay for something – insurance coverage for contraception – on the sincere conviction that doing so violates their religion,” Circuit Judge Diane Sykes wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Joel Flaum. “They have made a strong case that RFRA entitles them to that relief.”

Judge Ilana Rovner dissented, writing that the majority’s overreach hypothetically could prevent employees from obtaining embryonic stem-cell therapy; allow Christian Scientist business owners to severely restrict access to medical care based on their beliefs; or deny coverage to same-sex couples even in states that permit such unions if the corporation’s owners have a religious objection to same-sex marriage. She warned the ruling could open a host of federal regulation to challenges based on the religious beliefs of corporate owners.

Rovner wrote that the majority’s holding “represents a dramatic turn in free exercise jurisprudence” and “bestows a highly personal right to religious exercise on two secular, for-profit corporations that have no facility of thought, conscience or belief. It deems the religious rights of the plaintiffs burdened by the contraception mandate without consideration of the indirect and minimal intrusion on their exercise of religion. And it disregards the extent to which the exemption from the mandate burdens the rights of the plaintiffs’ employees.”

The 7th Circuit majority noted its opinion aligns with a majority holding from the 10th Circuit, but that the 3rd Circuit has ruled in a similar case that “a for-profit, secular corporation cannot engage in the exercise of religion” and its owners have no claim against the contraception mandate.

A Federal Circuit ruling held that for-profit corporations may not challenge the law on religious grounds, but that companies organized differently with individual owners may.


  • Individual Rights People
    This is about individual rights my friends. The idea that some narrow minded, self righteous, corporate executive or business owner believes they have a monopoly on right and wrong and thereby should judge for all of their employees whether they should have access to free birth control is morally repugnant from any fair minded perspective. This is exactly the tyrannical despotism our forefathers risked their lives to flee from and died for when they fled from Europe. The religious right and one percenter's represent the new aristocracy of our age. They feel they are entitled to judge for all of the rest of us what we should believe and have, in terms of sharing of wealth. Welcome to the 18th century folks!
  • Hypocrites
    I think it would be interesting to find out how many employed by this "roman catholic employer" have ever used birth control. I would guess it is maybe 50%? I am married to a Catholic and the hypocracy of the religion never ceases to amaze me. Pick what you like and ignore what you don't. If you think you want to use birth control, shouldn't you laeve the church??? The "Roman Catholic Employer" should also fight coverage for homosexuals, under this same beleif, right? ELE
  • Where is Dave?
    What happened to Dave?
  • Dave is Totally Wrong
    Dave, I plan to refuse to pay taxes because I need to support my home-grown religion. I refuse to get a driver's license because my religion prohibits any form of identification when I am driving. My religion also supports a man marrying a dog. Should I go on?
    • Birth Control is not Constroversial
      The nerve of these employers is staggering. It should be absolutely no one's business how anyone chooses to use their health insurance. Hate to break it to you, but millions of women have been using birth control for decades now. Religious and non-religious women alike. I cannot believe this is so controversial in 2013. It's idiotic. What if an employer had a religious opposition to vaccines, antibiotics or any kind of medical intervention? Would these judges be so willing then to let their fundamentalist principles keep their employees from accessing the basic health care of their choice? I really want someone to put forth a bogus claim just to prove a point, using the same language as these religious exemptions for birth control, but replace "birth control" with something common and generally uncontroversial like Amoxil.
    • Dissenting opinion is correct one
      Corporations are not people. Those that run them are under no obligation to do so. If they do not want to follow the laws of the land they are free to step down from running the corporation.
    • Victory for Lunacy
      So it's reasonable for employers to have a trump card over what insurance coverage you can get? What if my religion says "I don't think anybody should have kids," so therefore I don't cover any expenses relating to children or birth?
    • great news
      Thank you Judges Sykes and Flaum for demonstrating a respect for religious liberty.
    • Finally a Constitution Ruling NOT law from the bench
      Best court ruling in a long time, GREAT day for America. No matter you position on the case it is wonderful to see that decided on the frame work of the constitution and not just a judge(s) opinion of what they want the world to look like.
    • DEATH by a 1000 CUTS
      Yet another FEDERAL JUDGE shows common sense by re-affirming the 1st AMENDMENTS enumeration of the CIVIL RIGHT to express RELIGIOUS BELIEFS aside from the GOVERNMENTS DEMANDS FOR ATHEISTIC INTERPRETATION.
      • Victory for First Amendment
        It's good to see that the First Amendment still holds sway with some courts in America. The Obama Administration seems set on trampling on black letter rights of Americans to forward its agenda. There may be a way to cover contraceptives, but forcing religious institutions to act against their Constitutionally protected beliefs isn't the way to do it.

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