On Friday a federal appeals court struck down ObamaCare’s HHS contraception mandate, deciding that the requirement is an infringement upon religious liberty.
According to The Hill, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of two Catholic brothers, Francis and Philip Gilardi, who own a 400-person produce company based in Ohio. The Gilardis argued that they oppose contraception due to the tenets of their Catholic faith, and challenged ObamaCare’s provision that requires them to provide free contraception to their employees through a health insurance plan.
The brothers claimed that if they chose not to obey the law, they would incur a $14 million fine.
A requirement that companies cover their employees’ contraception, the court ruled, is unduly burdensome for business owners who oppose birth control on religious grounds, though they may not be purchasing contraception directly.
The Obama administration argued that the requirement is necessary to protect women’s right to decide whether and when to have children. It is expected the Supreme Court will ultimately pick up the administration’s appeal and make a final decision on its constitutionality.
“The burden on religious exercise does not occur at the point of contraceptive purchase; instead, it occurs when a company’s owners fill the basket of goods and services that constitute a healthcare plan,” wrote Judge Janice Rogers Brown on behalf of the court. “It is clear the government has failed to demonstrate how such a right – whether described as noninterference, privacy, or autonomy – can extend to the compelled subsidization of a woman’s procreative practices.”
Brown added that denying coverage of contraception would not undermine the Affordable Care Act’s requirements that health insurance provide preventative care. The Gilardis’ employees will still be covered for counseling, screenings, and tests, the judge observed.
“The provision of these services — even without the contraceptive mandate — by and large fulfills the statutory command for insurers to provide gender-specific preventive care,” Brown wrote. “At the very least, the statutory scheme will not go to pieces.”
The two judges on the panel who dissented said the rights of religious people do not extend to the companies they own.