Justice delays health law's birth control mandate

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2013 at 11:06 pm •  Published: December 31, 2013
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Only hours before the law was to take effect, a Supreme Court justice on Tuesday blocked implementation of part of President Barack Obama's health care law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor's decision came after a flurry of efforts by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation. Those groups had rushed to the federal courts to stop Wednesday's start of portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal appeals court.

The government is "temporarily enjoined from enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage requirements imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Sotomayor said in the order.

Sotomayor, who was in New York Tuesday night to lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, gave government officials until 10 a.m. EST Friday to respond to her order.

The law requires employers to provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.

The Obama administration crafted a compromise, or accommodation, that attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The law requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.

But for that to work, the nuns would have to sign a form authorizing their insurance company to provide contraceptive coverage, which would still violate their beliefs, argued their attorney, Mark Rienzi.

"Without an emergency injunction, Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form, thereby violating her religious beliefs; or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines," Rienzi said.



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