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Federal Judge Temporarily Exempts Hobby Lobby From Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Federal Judge Temporarily Exempts Hobby Lobby From Contraceptive Coverage Rules

July 2, 2013 — A federal judge on Friday granted retail chain Hobby Lobby a temporary injunction exempting it from the federal contraceptive coverage rules while it challenges the policy in court, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

The ruling came the same day that the Obama administration finalized the rules, which require most health plans to cover contraceptive services (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/28).

Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/28).

As a for-profit business, Hobby Lobby is not eligible for an exemption or accommodation under the final rule ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/28). The company's Christian owners argue that the rules violate their religious beliefs because they consider some forms of contraception to be the equivalent of an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/28).

Without the injunction, Hobby Lobby and its sister company -- the Christian bookstore chain Mardel -- faced fines totaling $1.3 million daily beginning July 1 for not offering contraceptive coverage to their workers.

Next Steps

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton set a July 19 hearing to address the plaintiffs' claims.

Heaton noted that a federal appeals court on June 27 cleared the way for the companies to challenge the contraceptive coverage rules on religious grounds, and he urged the government and the companies to reach an agreement before the hearing (Kissel, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/28).