December 15, 2014 — A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that a Minnesota car dealership does not have to comply with the federal contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) because of the owner's religious objections to certain contraceptives, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Doug Erickson, owner of Hastings Automotive and Hastings Chrysler Center, contested the requirements because he objects to the use of four contraceptive methods that he believes are equivalent to abortifacients. Erickson learned that his businesses' employer-sponsored health plans covered such contraceptives in 2012 and sued HHS in January. Erickson said he does intend to continue offering coverage for other types of FDA-approved contraceptives (Woltman, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/11).
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson granted Erickson an injunction last week (Richardson, Hastings Gazette, 12/11). Specifically, the judge said that Erickson does not have to offer employee health plans that cover "contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related patient education and counseling to which plaintiffs object on religious grounds." Magnuson cited the Supreme Court's similar ruling earlier this year in a case involving the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby. According to the Pioneer Press, another Minnesota business received a similar ruling last month.
State Lawmaker Drafts Bill To Address Contraceptive Coverage
In related news, Minnesota Rep. Erin Murphy (D) is planning to introduce legislation in January that would create state-level contraceptive coverage requirements for businesses, the Pioneer Press reports.
The Contraception Health Equity and Employee Rights Act would mandate that Minnesota businesses with more than 50 employees include coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives in their prescription drug plans. According to Murphy, such a state law, if enacted, would not be superseded by the high court's Hobby Lobby precedent, which involved the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141).
Murphy said recent cases granting Minnesota businesses injunctions from the federal contraceptive coverage rules inspired the bill, adding that she thinks such rulings could lead to future religious exemptions to other types of medical care. She said, "I'm alarmed by what I see happening as a result of the Hobby Lobby decision. I have no reason to believe [such decisions] won't be applied to other questions about employees' health care or beyond" (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/11).