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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Courts - More on "Indiana reflects contraception mandate disparity" [Updated]

From this brief article by Amanda Marcotte posted today on Slate:

Late on New Year's Eve, Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a small number of religiously affiliated groups a temporary injunction from a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows them not to cover contraception in their health care plans if they fill out a form that states that they want an exemption from the law for religious reasons. Go ahead and read that sentence again. These Catholic nonprofits that wanted an exemption from covering their employees' contraception needs—and got an exemption from covering their employees' contraception needs—are now fighting the provision (that exempts them from covering their employees' contraception needs) simply because they don't want to have to fill out a form that states that they are exempt. * * *

Even the lawyer for one of the groups, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, admits that this lawsuit is about trying to weasel out of nothing more onerous than signing a piece of paper. "Without an emergency injunction," Mark Rienzi told the Associated Press, "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." And a spokeswoman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, lead counsel for the Little Sisters, said, "The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people. It doesn't need to force the nuns to participate." The problem is that the government agrees and has set up a system so that the nuns can opt out. The nuns refuse to opt out, however, because opting out on paper will allow their employees to get that contraception coverage [Because their employees need that form in order to get birth control directly from their insurers].

[Updated at 2:50 PM] Greg Stohr of Bloomberg as a new story headed "Nuns’ Top Court Contraception Objection Delays Health Law." Some quotes:
Although the regulations don’t require the nuns to provide contraceptive coverage, they can avoid the rule only by submitting a “self-certification” attesting to their objections. The self-certification form is designed to shift the responsibility for providing contraceptive coverage to the objecting group’s insurer, which could then seek government reimbursement.

The Little Sisters say the provision violates the Constitution and a federal religious-freedom law by forcing them to become complicit in providing contraceptives.

The regulations “will expose the Little Sisters of the Poor to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and participate in the government’s system to distribute and subsidize contraception,” lawyers for the nuns argued. * * *

The Supreme Court is already planning to consider religious objections to the contraceptive mandate in a different context. The justices will hear arguments in late March or early April from family-run businesses, including the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., that say they shouldn’t have to provide some types of birth-control coverage to their employees.

The business cases don’t address the Health and Human Service Department rules that are at issue in the Little Sisters of the Poor dispute.

Instead, the justices will decide whether the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act itself violates the rights of the companies or their owners. A central question is whether a 1993 religious-freedom law gives for-profit companies the same rights as people.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 2, 2014 01:00 PM
Posted to Courts in general