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Retail Chain Files Suit Against Contraceptive Coverage Rules; Dems Defend Policy at House Hearing

Retail Chain Files Suit Against Contraceptive Coverage Rules; Dems Defend Policy at House Hearing

September 13, 2012 — The evangelical founders of the retail chain Hobby Lobby have filed a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma challenging the contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), The Oklahoman reports.

The suit argues that providing contraceptive coverage for Hobby Lobby's employees would violate the freedom of speech and religious beliefs of founder and CEO David Green and his family (Mecoy, The Oklahoman, 9/12).

The suit also claims that certain contraceptives -- including emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices -- can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, which the family considers to be an abortion (Greene, Tulsa World, 9/12).

The contraceptive coverage rules require health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover contraceptive services without copayments or deductibles. HHS has given religiously affiliated entities, such as colleges and hospitals, a one-year delay period to come into compliance, and religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, are exempt altogether (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/6).

More than two dozen legal challenges have been filed against the contraceptive coverage rules, but Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic business to file a lawsuit, according to The Oklahoman. The suit names HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner as defendants.

The contraceptive coverage requirement would take effect Jan. 1 for Hobby Lobby, which is self-insured. The suit seeks an immediate injunction, as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting the enforcement for the Green family's businesses and "other individuals and organizations that object on religious grounds." To date, one for-profit company has obtained an injunction against the requirement (The Oklahoman, 9/12).

Hobby Lobby employs about 13,600 people in 41 states, according to the filing (Tulsa World, 9/12).

Green Pens Op Ed

In an opinion piece in USA Today, Green defends his decision to challenge the contraceptive coverage rules in court. "The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost," he writes, adding, "But it won't exempt them for reasons of religious belief."

Because of this, his family had no choice but to turn to legal action, he says, adding, "The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law" (Green, USA Today, 9/12).

Dems Defend Contraceptive Coverage Policy at House Hearing

Democrats defended the contraceptive coverage rules on Wednesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing called by Republicans to criticize "abuses" of power by the Obama administration, Modern Healthcare reports (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 9/12).

Republicans on the committee cited the rules as one of many instances in which the administration overstepped the limits of executive power (Harrison/Gramlich, CQ Today, 9/12).

Meanwhile, Democrats compared the requirement that Catholic hospitals' health plans provide contraceptive coverage for employees to President Johnson's requirement that Southern hospitals desegregate to qualify for Medicare funding.

Johnson demonstrated that a "compelling state interest" could override religious beliefs, even if hospitals say those beliefs justify their practices, said Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.) (Modern Healthcare, 9/12).