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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