Court Rules Against Anti-Contraceptive Challenge to Obamacare
A federal appeals court in Washington ruled Friday that Obamacare’s current regulations for allowing religious nonprofits to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage are appropriate. The court rejected a challenge to those regulations from the Catholic Archbishop of Washington and Catholic-affiliated nonprofits, who were concerned that the policy as is still impeded religious freedom.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a 3-0 opinion against the challenge, stating that any nonprofit that wishes to opt out of providing birth control coverage can write a letter or two-page form which outlines what they believe. After a nonprofit has written such a letter, insurance companies are allowed to offer contraception coverage independently to employees and students who request it.
“Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms,” Circuit Judge Cornelia Pillard wrote.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, an anti-abortion ministry and lead plaintiff in the case, said the group will continue to challenge the ruling. “To ask a group of priests to cooperate in the government’s plan to expand access to birth control and abortion-inducing drugs is about as contrary to religious freedom as you can get,” he said to The Washington Times.
These religious groups are not the first to challenge Obamacare’s coverage of birth control. More notable was the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision which allowed for-profit corporations to opt out of providing such coverage. However, these nonprofits feel that having to opt out of the Obamacare plan still impedes their religious freedom.
The court’s perspective is that the religious groups who oppose Obamacare’s contraception coverage don’t “suffer substantial burdens,” but rather are burdened only because they can’t stop people from receiving coverage for birth control.
“A substantial burden exists when government action puts substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs,” Pillard wrote. “A burden does not rise to the level of being substantial when it places an inconsequential or de minimis burden on an adherent’s religious exercise.” She continued that the decision effectively allows the nonprofits to wash their hands of anything to do with birth control.