Supreme Court Agrees to Hear New Challenge to Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate

Obamacare is headed back to SCOTUS.


Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

For the fourth time in five years, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In an order released Friday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in seven Obamacare petitions, which will likely be consolidated into one final decision released at the end of the 2015-2016 term. At issue is whether the government is violating religious liberty in its scheme for granting regulatory accommodations to religious nonprofits, such as universities, hospitals, and charities, that object to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate.

In the most well-known of these petitions, Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, a nonprofit organization of Catholic nuns maintains that the Obama administration has violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by requiring the Little Sisters "to comply [with Obamacare], either directly or by executing documents that authorize and obligate others to use the Little Sisters' healthcare plans to accomplish the 'seamless' provision of contraceptive coverage."

In other words, although the federal government has exempted the Little Sisters from providing contraceptive coverage directly to its employees, the Little Sisters object to the fact that it is nonetheless required to file paperwork that results in that same contraceptive coverage being provided by a third-party. In the view of the Little Sisters, any involvement in facilitating such contraceptive coverage is tantamount to being involved in facilitating abortion.

The Obama administration counters this argument by maintaining that the Little Sisters don't simply want a reasonable religious accommodation for its views, the group also seeks to impose its own improper agenda by "prevent[ing] the government from arranging for third parties to provide separate coverage to the affected women."

The Supreme Court will likely hear oral arguments in this new Obamacare dispute by spring 2016.