Obamacare contraception rule headed back to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by Little Sisters of the Poor and other faith-based groups, who say that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) didn’t adequately accommodate their religious beliefs when working around the Court’s previous ruling in Hobby Lobby.

The case held that the government could not require closely-held corporations and other organizations with sincerely-held religious beliefs to provide health insurance plans for their employees that include coverage for certain types of birth control. In response, HHS created a short form — literally a half-page — asking companies seeking exemptions from the contraception mandate to simply indicate their religious objection, at which time the government would connect the employees in question with a private health insurance plan providing the coverage free of charge. Since contraception is cost-neutral, no one — not the employer, not the insurance company and no the government — shoulders any additional cost.

Hobby Lobby photo via DangApricot. Pope clothes via Shutterstock (Maxisport / Shutterstock.com)

Hobby Lobby photo via DangApricot. Pope clothes via Shutterstock (Maxisport / Shutterstock.com)

But for Little Sisters, who Pope Francis told to keep fighting the good fight when he visited in September, this isn’t enough. The requirement that they state their objection, rather than being allowed to simply deny their employees health insurance plans other employers are required to provide, is too much for them.

Thus far, nearly every court that has heard their case has ruled that their claim is ridiculous. It doesn’t violate your religious beliefs when the government asks you to declare your religious beliefs so that it can accommodate your religious beliefs. However, this requirement has proven to be so odious for religious conservatives that one college decided to stop providing health insurance for its students altogether rather than comply with the new rule.

Even if this argument doesn’t sway any of the justices who ruled in religious conservatives’ favor in Hobby Lobby, they could still rule in favor of the administration. From the Associated Press:

The administration has argued that the accommodation it came up with does not violate the nonprofits’ religious rights. Even if the Supreme Court rejects that argument, the administration has said in court papers, the justices should determine that the system for getting contraceptives to women covered by the groups’ insurance plans is the most effective and efficient way to do so.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in March.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Silver_Witch

    Perhaps it is time for these employees to get new jobs. Protesting the sisters would serve them right.

  • Silver_Witch

    Nice to see your shinning joy joy bunny personality is on full blast this morning.

  • Silver_Witch

    Rest easy Judy no one wants a Republican president and we Bernie supports all know that Hillary is going to lose just like she did in 08 – so we are good to go. Hopefully the Clinton supporters won’t be so devastated that the have to stay in bed on 11416.

  • Mary Fernandez

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  • Bill_Perdue

    Single payer was betrayed by Democrats with the full agreement of Republicans. The record is clear. The alternative to single payer is Obamacare, and that was imposed on us by Democrats, again with support of Republicans.

    It’s insurance company care, not health care. It origins are bribes of Obama and the Congress combined with secrecy.

    Obama took about $20 million in bribes and had a couple of dozen secret meetings with the owners of HMOs and Big Pharma and then he scuttled single payer. “The new figure, obtained by Raw Story through an independent custom research request performed by the Center for Responsive Politics — a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics — is the most comprehensive breakdown yet available of healthcare industry contributions to Obama during the 2008 election cycle. Currently, the Center’s website shows that Obama received $19,462,986 from the health sector, which includes health professionals ($11.7m), health services/HMOs ($1.4m), hospitals/nursing homes ($3.3m) and pharmaceuticals/health products ($2.1m).” http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/01/12/obama-received-20-million-healthcare-industry-money-2008/

    While he was getting those bribes, mislabeled “campaign contributions” he was having secret meetings with the health care sector of the .01% . LA Times July 22, 2009 “the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the Secret Service asking about visits from 18 executives representing health insurers, drug makers, doctors and other players in the debate.”

    Congressional Democrats and Republicans were just as culpable as Obama. Open Secrets March 26, 2009 “health insurance companies’ PACs and employees have given 25 members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation $3.3 million in campaign contributions since the 1990 election cycle, with 53 percent of that going to Democrats” (Democrats, aka, the party in power when the heath care travesty was passed). Open Secrets goes on to say that “At the top of that list is committee member Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has collected $680,200 over time for his candidate committee and leadership PAC from the companies. But the industry under scrutiny has also helped pay for the campaigns of committee chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who has collected $141,000, while ranking member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) has brought in $119,700. Blue Cross/Blue Shield has the strongest financial tie to senators currently on the committee, giving $505,700 total, followed by AFLAC, which has donated $337,250 since 1989.” Their bribes were so widespread that Kucinich, the darling of the liberals voted for the sell out.

    As a result of the sellout by Democrats, supported by Republicans, the kind of health care we all need – the public option, Medicare for all, socialized medicine – whatever you want to call it was betrayed again and working people are going to suffer for it with increased costs, decreased health care and more avoidable deaths.

    Obama and the Democrats and Republicans are criminals for denying health care to working people.

  • MoonDragon

    Only the Second Amendment.

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  • ComradeRutherford

    “we’ll end up with religious police dominating our secular lives not unlike Saudi Arabia or Israel.”

    That’s been the goal of the GOP since Saint Reagan.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Conservatives say the Constitution should not apply to them…

  • Bill_Perdue

    Similar exemptions for cults were enshrined by Democrats in ENDA and their ‘Equality Act’ in terms of hiring and firing LGBT people.

    There should be no exemptions for cults in terms of employment, housing, social services, taxation or immunity form prosecution for crimes against children.

  • judybrowni

    What if pigs fly out of your butt?

    Not going to happen with the Republicans in charge of Congress.

  • judybrowni

    Frankly, I don’t care which Democrat survives the primary, as long as he/she is elected.

    My fear is if Bernie doesnt have the delegates, Bernie s boys will pout, sulk and either stay home or write in vote third party, and we end up with a President Trump or Cruz, who among other disasters give us 30 more years of Supreme Court Justices who want into my pants, while handing whats left of this country to the one percent.

  • Like I indicated earlier, fundamentalist conservative Christians believe only their religion deserves these extraordinary accommodations. They argue for the right to discriminate legally because they never imagine they themselves will ever be at the receiving end of the same. Nor would they allow it.

  • MoonDragon

    The above suggestion was a stop gap measure.

  • Hue-Man

    A baker won’t sell wedding cakes to lesbians and gays because he’s somehow involved in gay weddings. A county clerk won’t stamp a piece of paper because she’s somehow involved in gay weddings. An employer won’t sign a piece of paper because it may be complicit in contraceptives.

    Why not join John Oliver’s church and claim that it doesn’t allow you to be nice to TeaParty/Republicans? Starting work on Mondays before noon? Required devotion times at lunch for 2 hours? etc.

    If reasonable limits are not put on unreasonable religious demands, we’ll end up with religious police dominating our secular lives not unlike Saudi Arabia or Israel.

  • nicho

    What if we just have universal single-payer health care and this all goes away?

  • So is the chattel ownership of women, who in the Commandments are considered equivalent to indentured servants, slaves, and farm animals in terms of the sin of ‘coveting.’

  • TheOriginalLiz

    Slavery is a biblical belief, after all

  • MoonDragon

    Spousal unit had an interesting thought. What if the government considers the suit as a notification of their notification of religious objection and goes ahead and notifies the employees of their options anyway?

  • All they have to write is “Catholic teaching prohibits our involvement with contraception.” That ought to be sufficient for what the form requires, no?

  • 2patricius2

    That pretty much sums it up.

  • 2karmanot

    “So where does this all end?: A religious theocracy: Handmaiden’s Tale.

  • MoonDragon

    The problem is that, by filling out the form, it allows the government to direct those shameless sluts to a provider who will give them the ability to engage in recreational sex. By signing off on the form, the Little Sisters would be deprived of their religious freedom to impose Catholic dogma on all of their employees by default.

  • MoonDragon

    If they sign the paper, they enable the government to contact their employees, enabling them, in turn, to access them means by which to engage in recreational sex without consequences. Their religious right to impose their dogma on their employees would, thus, be breached.

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  • Nicholas A Kocal

    It does not matter what the Obama administration comes up with the five right wing ideologues on the Supreme will be against it.

  • Indigo

    That’s the problem, they want to impose their notions as if they had the legal right to do that. They need State Church. Christianity cann’t work without it.

  • Ah my friend, but you forget: These are religious domination privileges to be extended only to fundamentalist mainstream-y Christianists.

    Fringe-group Christian-esque groups can forget being included, as well as progressive Christians. And if they’re not really Christian at all, like Muslims or Hindus or Native Americans? Fergedaboudit.

  • Zorba

    Of course they want to control the personal lives of their employees.
    But I do want to know what the Supremes would decide if there were companies owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses (they don’t “believe in” blood transfusions) which refused to provide employee health insurance that covered blood transfusions.
    And then we could get into the whole area of Christian Scientist-owned companies. The Christian Scientists avoid most (but not necessarily all) medical care, in favor of Christian Science prayer, often with the help of Christian Science certified “practitioners.”
    And let’s not even get into Scientology and their (let’s label it what it is) war on psychiatry, mental health therapies, and drug therapy when necessary.
    So where does this all end?

  • Let’s be clear here: The goal of these religious authoritarians is they want to control the personal lives of their employees, for their rights as employers to have supremacy. As Timncguy says, what they really want is to make it difficult, expensive and preferably illegal for their secular employees to obtain contraceptives and other reproductive healthcare options.

    After all, part of their ‘deeply held and sincere’ religious beliefs is they also believe they should have the right to impose those beliefs on non-believers. Even when those beliefs are based on ignorant misinformation as to how contraceptive medications work.

  • Jimmy

    We already know where 6 if the justices will fall. Scalia, Alito, Thomas will support Little Sisters of the Poor whether it makes legal sense or not; Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan will vote for common sense. It will come down to Roberts and Kennedy.

  • 1nancy2

    D. Sounds good to me. Oh, I never, ever go into HL, Ever. Creeps.

  • Doug105

    I look forward to the day an atheist or just non-religion businesses can cut 10% from a christian’s paycheck because it would be used for tithing.

  • timncguy

    it’s pretty obvious that what the little sisters object to in the process is that in the end, their employees get insurance coverage for birth control when the sisters don’t want their employees to have it. plain and simple.

  • nicho

    Well it could be a victory for all of us. Anything you don’t want to do, just say “religious beliefs.” What are those beliefs? I don’t have to tell you. So leave me alone.

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