July 1 2013

Hobby Lobby Wins Restraining Order

Hadley Heath

Thursday the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of craft store giant Hobby Lobby, who is challenging the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employers provide comprehensive contraceptive coverage. This ruling remands the case to the district level, asking district judges to address the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.  On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton granted the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order against the mandate, meaning Hobby Lobby and a sister company will not pay $1.3 million in daily fines.  Heaton also set a hearing for July 19 to review the case further.

From USA Today:

Until the hearing, the government cannot impose fines against Hobby Lobby or Mardel for failing to comply with all of the Affordable Care Act. The companies' owners oppose birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, such as an intrauterine device or the morning-after pill, but are willing to offer the 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care law.

"The opinion makes it very clear what is a valid religious belief and what is not," said Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The group is representing the companies and their owners, the Green family.

Heaton asked the government and companies to seek some sort of solution before the hearing, given that the 10th Circuit has already cleared the way for the companies to challenge the law on religious grounds. While not binding beyond the states in the 10th Circuit, Thursday's ruling could benefit others that oppose all forms of birth control, Hardman said, such as Catholic hospitals.

"We got a fantastic opinion from the 10th Circuit, which will impact all the cases," she said.

In related news, the Department of Health and Human Services released the final rule on contraceptive coverage on Friday.  Opponents say the final rule failed to address conscience concerns.

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