Supreme Court seeks compromise in ‘contraceptive mandate’ cases

Print More
Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor speaks to the media after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on March 23, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts 
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONTRACEPTION-COURTS, originally transmitted on May 16, 2016.

Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor speaks to the media after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on March 23, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONTRACEPTION-COURTS, originally transmitted on May 16, 2016.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court are seeking a compromise that would let religious nonprofit groups avoid any involvement in offering insurance coverage for contraceptives while also ensuring that employees get the coverage.

On Tuesday (March 29) the justices asked lawyers on both sides in seven cases, which were heard last week, to submit additional briefs on the subject within the next few weeks.

It was a clear indication that at least one member of the court — most likely Justice Anthony Kennedy — is seeking a way out of yet another 4-4 decision that would set no national precedent. The high court has issued two such divided opinions in the past eight days following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month.

The cases, including one filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, test whether religiously-affiliated employers such as charities, hospitals and universities must file a form or write a letter to get out of offering free coverage for birth control. The groups say even that level of involvement violates their religious beliefs.


RELATED STORY: 2 young women, 2 polar views on contraception case


“This is an excellent development. Clearly the Supreme Court understood the Sisters’ concern that the government’s current scheme forces them to violate their religion,” said Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “We look forward to offering alternatives that protect the Little Sisters’ religious liberty while allowing the government to meet its stated goals.”

If the compromise floated by the high court provides enough cover for the non-profits, it also would represent a victory for the government and advocates of reproductive rights, because workers would get free coverage once the regulation is revised.

The eight justices appeared equally divided during oral arguments last week, raising the likelihood that they would deadlock over the challenge by religious non-profits to the federal government’s so-called ‘contraceptive mandate,’ which grew out of the Affordable Care Act.

The court already has split 4-4 in two cases, including a major challenge to public employee unions’ ability to collect fees from non-members, which was decided Tuesday. In the birth control case, a similar split would be particularly embarrassing; federal appeals courts are divided on the issue, with most upholding the government mandate but one siding with the religious groups.

The justices could decide to hear the case again when they are back to full strength — but with President Obama and Senate Republicans at loggerheads over the nomination of federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, that could take another year or more.


RELATED STORY: Contraception case could limit decisions about dying


The two-page order from the court Tuesday outlined a possible solution that would, in essence, suggest a different accommodation than the one the Obama administration devised and turn the justices into policymakers.

“Petitioners would have no legal obligation to provide such contraceptive coverage, would not pay for such coverage, and would not be required to submit any separate notice to their insurer, to the federal government, or to their employees,” the order said.

“At the same time, petitioners’ insurance company — aware that petitioners are not providing certain contraceptive coverage on religious grounds — would separately notify petitioners’ employees that the insurance company will provide cost-free contraceptive coverage.”

(Richard Wolf writes for USA Today) 
  • Pingback: Supreme Court seeks compromise in ‘contraceptive mandate’ cases - mosaicversemosaicverse()

  • Pingback: Supreme Court seeks compromise in ‘contraceptive mandate’ cases | Christian News Agency()

  • George Nixon Shuler

    It seems already the government has bent over backwards for those employers who believe they have a right to decide what healthcare benefits their employees may obtain. I’m not sure what else could possibly be done. Insurance providers who participate in medical coverage plans must offer contraceptive services; the employer has no involvement whatsoever. This is just another delaying tactic to deny women the right to control their own bodies.

  • Pingback: Supreme Court seeks compromise in ‘contraceptive mandate’ cases – The Reformed Post()

  • yoh

    Because it is such a burden to sign a form and let employees make their own decisions at their own expense. At this point we can quit the pretense that there is a good faith argument. I have yet to see someone chiming in supporting the nuns who honestly portrayed the facts of the case or said anything remotely relevant to it.

    If the nuns have trouble with employees making their own healthcare choices, eff them and the white horses they rode in on.

  • Abu

    Yes that’s why President Zero has been delaying implementation of this stupid law. So employers who will vote for Democrats aren’t forced to “make a decision”.

  • Pingback: Supreme Court seeks compromise in ‘contraceptive mandate’ cases -IKTHUS.NET()

  • DougH

    I’d say someone on the Supreme Court really doesn’t want to to order nuns to be accessories to something that violates their religion. That really looks bad

  • Patrick

    Not true. Remember, the CONSTUTUTION protects religious freedom and the free exercise thereof. Reproductive rights, however, are not a Constitutional right. Our freedoms are not based on the most current issue, but on a document over 200 years old

  • Pingback: What the Supreme Court Just Asked These Pro-Life Groups to Do - Black Community News()

  • yoh

    Thank you Abu, Patrick and DougH for demonstrating how little you guys know of the facts of the case and your lack of care about what they are. Instead we have platitudes.

  • Observer

    Another reason for single payer health insurance. The idea of a compromise is applauded, However, nothing is provided free under a health insurance program. Some party has to pay. Therefore in this proposed compromise, the government is supporting a religion because that religion does not want to provide the same coverage that other religious groups provide.

    How many of these charities that want to cherry pick the law would exist if it weren’t for government grants, pensions, tax deductible contributions or medicare/medicaid payments?