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SCOTUS takes ACA ‘contraception mandate’ cases

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear two cases that could determine whether companies that provide health insurance to employees can be required under the new health care law to provide coverage for birth control.

Justices conferenced over several related cases and granted a writ of certiorari in Kathleen Sebelius, et al. v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al., 13-354, and in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, 13-356. The cases will be heard in the spring.

Federal Circuit courts have split on the question of whether the mandate violates the religious liberties of company owners whose faith proscribes birth control.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals added to the division nationwide recently, when it ruled in favor of an Indiana company, Grote Industries of Madison, whose Roman Catholic owners objected to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer-sponsored health insurance plans cover birth control.

Indiana University law professors said in a statement the cases will have far-reaching implications beyond the health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare.

“Nearly three dozen lawsuits have been filed by various businesses whose owners challenge the contraception mandate on religious grounds,” said Daniel Conkle, a law professor at the IU Maurer School of Law. “These cases raise fundamental questions about the scope of religious liberty, including the right of religious objectors to special legal accommodation, even in the commercial sphere.”

“There’s a dramatic split among the U.S. circuit courts regarding the contraceptive coverage provisions, represented by these two cases,” said IU Maurer School of Law professor Dawn Johnsen. “The Supreme Court has to resolve this split. I would expect that the court will be closely divided, and it’s very difficult to predict precisely how the justices will rule.”

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