District Court Ruling Seeks to Expand Contraceptive Mandate Exception

A new ruling out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia would expand the types of organizations that can opt out of providing employees with coverage for contraceptives. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that group health insurance plans cover one method of each of the 18 Food and Drug Administration-approved types of contraceptives to be considered ACA-compliant. However, the 2014 Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby established an exception to that rule by allowing non-profit and closely held for-profit companies with religious objections to apply for an exemption from providing such coverage.

Now U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon has ruled in March For Life v. Burwell that a secular organization with non-religious conscientious objection to providing contraception coverage should be able to opt out of providing that coverage, too. Additionally, the judge concluded that because the contraceptive mandate “makes it impossible for [March for Life employees] to purchase a health insurance plan that does not include coverage of contraceptives to which they object,” the mandate also “imposes a substantial burden on [employees’] exercise of religion.”

The government is expected to appeal the ruling, and secular organizations that wish to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, as well as organizations that employ workers with objections to contraceptive coverage, should watch as it progresses through the courts.

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