Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby will defy a federal law that requires employee health care plans to provide insurance coverage for types of contraception that the firm's owners consider to be “abortion-causing drugs and devices,” an attorney for the company said Thursday.
With Wednesday's rejection of an emergency stay of that federal health care law by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel could be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day beginning Tuesday.
“They're not going to comply with the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the company. “They're not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.”
As for the potential fines, Duncan said, “We're just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel, filed a lawsuit in September challenging part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. They said a provision dealing with insurance coverage for certain types of contraception — the morning-after pill, the week-after pill and some intrauterine devices — went against the family's beliefs. The Greens believe those types of contraception could cause abortions.
David Green, Hobby Lobby founder and CEO, hinted that the company wouldn't comply with the law.
“Our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families,” Green said in September. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
Hobby Lobby and Mardel operate more than 500 stores and employ more than 13,000 people.
The Green family's operation of Hobby Lobby and Mardel retail stores has long reflected their evangelical Christian beliefs. The business closes its shops on Sundays, annually buys full-page religious newspaper ads on Easter and Christmas, and employs full-time chaplains to minister to workers. The Greens regularly funnel corporate profits to Christian ministries and missions.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction to allow the company to avoid the potential fines when its insurance plan year begins Jan. 1. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the mandate's enforcement against the Green family and its businesses, “and other individuals and organizations that object on religious grounds to providing insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs and devices, and related education and counseling.”
Duncan said the company will continue its appeal in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is challenging U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton's ruling that the retailers were “secular, for-profit corporations” and did not have free-exercise rights under the First Amendment.
Government attorneys have argued for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel are secular entities, and that the contraceptive pills and devices were included among other forms of contraception under the health care law because medical experts deemed them necessary for women's health and well-being.
Duncan said Hobby Lobby and Mardel will continue to provide health insurance to all its qualified employees.
“To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” Duncan said.