Appeals court strikes down Obamacare birth control mandate
November 2nd, 2013
12:57 PM ET
9 years ago

Appeals court strikes down Obamacare birth control mandate

Washington (CNN) - In a ruling likely to set the stage for a battle in the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal appeals court has struck down an Obamacare mandate requiring some businesses to provide insurance coverage for birth control.

A key provision of Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide medical insurance and coverage for contraceptives and pregnancy-related care. The companies must provide the coverage or pay a substantial financial penalty.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a lower court's ruling Friday and said the individual owners of Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics of Sidney, Ohio, should not be forced to provide coverage for contraceptives to their employees.

But the divided court said lawsuits could not be filed under the names of the corporations themselves, since they were not "persons" under federal law and could not express religious beliefs. The difference is significant in terms of which parties may bring challenges to the Affordable Care Act.

The companies are owned solely by brothers Francis and Philip Gilardi, Catholics who are opposed to access to birth control. The ruling allows their lawsuit to proceed and bars enforcement of the employer mandate, at least as applied to the Gilardis.

In the 2-1 decision, the judges said forcing those owners to provide the coverage would violate their individual First Amendment rights allowing for the protection of their religion.

"The contraceptive mandate demands that owners like the Gilardis meaningfully approve and endorse the inclusion of contraceptive coverage in their companies' employer- provided plans, over whatever objections they may have," Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote in the court opinion.

"The burden becomes substantial because the government commands compliance by giving the Gilardis a Hobson's choice," added Brown, a President George W. Bush appointee. "They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong. If that is not substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, we fail to see how the standard could be met."

The Obama administration has already created rules exempting certain nonprofits and religiously affiliated organizations from the contraceptives requirements. In those cases, women would receive coverage from another company at no cost.

The administration issued those rules after multiple states and dozens of religious organizations sued the government over the requirement.

At least 75 separate lawsuits have been filed in federal court by for-profit corporations, like Freshway, whose owners oppose the requirement on religious grounds. Some courts have ruled for the mandates, and others have struck them down. Three of those appeals are pending at the Supreme Court, but the justices have not yet indicated when they would consider them for review.

The high court in 2012 narrowly upheld the law's key funding provision - the so-called individual mandate requiring nearly all Americans to have health insurance. That provision is not at issue in the current fight over the employer mandates.

The case decided Friday is Gilardi v. U-S Department of Health & Human Services (13-5069).

–CNN's Kevin Bohn, Tom Cohen, Bill Mears and Dan Merica contributed to this report.

Filed under: Obamacare
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. jboh

    I guess that means employers can dictate that their employees must conform to the boss's religious beliefs. I think that used to called serfdom.

    November 2, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    While I am not necessarily an advocate for abortion, it seems to me, and has been proven, that contrceptives are
    the fastest way to prevent pregnancy.
    Some States who deny women safe abortions have also denied these children health care or food stamps.
    The Republicans just slashed $40M over a ten year period, of SNAP funding. We need to care of all needy
    children and not punish them.
    By the same token, we need to understand that contraception is a sure way to avoid pregnancies, and
    thereby eliminating the heartbreaking decisions that come with it.
    "Bless the Beasts and the Children".............

    November 2, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Dose climate change and population have any relation to each other ?

    November 2, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. Tampa Tim

    Brown should never been in this position. Even sane republicans did not support W's nomination. But, legislating from the bench is what pubs do.

    November 2, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    Will the Freshway have to provide Viagra, Flomax, and male enhancement drugs, or are they exempt from them as well?

    November 2, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. Gurgyl

    –it is a package of healthcare, does appellate judge know? SC strikes down this crab. Listen, Hospitals, doctors, GOP thugs, insurance, pharmacy lost the game. O.k. No more bs or bc.

    November 2, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Seriously now, birth control is still an issue?

    November 2, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. Evergreen

    Birth control and related pregnancy issues are a major part of women's health. Why should women pay for coverage that exclude a major part of a woman's healthcare. How do these brothers feel about providing ED coverage to unmarried men?

    November 2, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. kevin

    What about the religious beliefs of their employees? Freedom of religion does not mean expectation of compliance. I'm not familiar with these stores but they better not be open on the Sabbath. And what if there employees don't honor their mother and father? Do they also check to be sure that employees don't covet? Do they require allegiance to a certain sect or faith? Or is this just some bonehead excuse for partisan politics. "i'll show that democrat who's boss!"

    November 2, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. Stuffit

    OBOZOCARE is just packed with all of the socialist ideas to destroy individual choice, it is not about health care or affordability at all, it is about arrogance, wealth redistribution and commemorating that drunken murderer and noted liar, Ted Kennedy.

    November 2, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. sharon

    When I worked for a Catholic Health organization, I had no objections to them not covering birth control. Since a lot of religions use the "God's Will' justification for outlawing birth control, aboriton, etc – once our employer covered invitro procedures and Viagra, we employers met with the order and outlined the issues we had – how could our insurance cover some medical issues that could be judged to be "God's Will" and not others. The next policy year, birth control (not abortion) was covered. I will keep an eye out for Freshway products so I do not purchase them as I live in one of the areas they provide retail products to. As an aside, how many charitable organizations do the Gilardi brothers support providing care and services for children who were either born unwanted or to large families unable to provide for them?

    November 2, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. oharris30

    I wonder just how many times these brothers attended mass this year. Did they attend mass Friday for All Saints Day? Just another couple of anti Obama GOPs.

    November 2, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    Is this what the teaklans mean when they want government out of their lives?
    Obamacare bad, taking women's right away good?

    November 2, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  14. Chris Wyman

    birth control is free at your local planned parenthood. otherwise it's $10

    November 2, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  15. Michael Benjamin

    But the divided court said lawsuits could not be filed under the names of the corporations themselves, since they were not "persons" under federal law and could not express religious beliefs. But corporations a free to give unlimited funds to political campaigns. What is going on here?

    November 2, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  16. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    This is great news for old codgers who will never get pregnant and "Christians" who pick and choose what they want from the bible.

    November 2, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  17. Rusty Krus

    Stupid distraction.

    November 2, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  18. J.V.Hodgson

    So what if say 70 % of the Gilardi female workforce is Protestant, and happy to have that cover. Why do those two have the right to impose their religious view on employees because their Catholic faith
    If all their Employees are Catholics or similar some employment discrimination is going on here. I say its an employees of that company decision not the bosses if the majority of women want the cover, that's the guideline... not the owner religious beliefs are we in a democracy and one that is supposed to separate religion and politics
    Now we understand the real reason for Republican opposition ( Mc cain special reasons) to Obama's court appointments

    November 3, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  19. marc

    This decision makes no sense. The court says that corporations can't file the lawsuits because they are not individuals, then agrees with the corporations they don't have to provide contraception under their insurance plans. Most of these judges are bought and paid for by corporations, but this bunch doesn't even try to conceal the fact.

    November 3, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  20. Larry in Houston

    guess Obama is probably better off playing the lame bird, all the way up to November 2014, then go back to work, till the real lame duck session is "IN" .... Why do I say that ? Because the republicans aren't going to let him work for his 400K per yr, pay....Guess it wouldn't be any different working somewhere for a company, and just do a half way job, while the people you are working for, are holding up your productivity, right ? ( Just Sayin )

    November 3, 2013 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  21. kamarasune

    As a woman I would rather see better access to birth control than using abortion as a form of birth control.
    Biology happens, and by the stubborn stance people are taking its only insuring another generation of unwanted pregnancies that either lead to more orphaned children, poverty, not finishing high school for the father, mother or both, or sadly the termination of the child who had no voice or no champion.

    November 3, 2013 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  22. meredith benard

    Companys should not make employees live by thier religious backgroung about covering contraceptive coverage on the health care plane

    November 3, 2013 02:56 am at 2:56 am |

    The Guns Over People tea potty War on women troops scream in glee.

    November 3, 2013 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  24. A True Conservative

    Finally some sense in this entire mess!

    November 3, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  25. Rick McDaniel

    Everyone KNOWS that the freebies for women, were NOT about health care at all........they were about winning VOTES in an ELECTION!

    They were actually GRAFT!

    November 3, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
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