July 5, 2012 — In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), conservatives are shifting their attention to other legal challenges to the law, including lawsuits opposing the contraceptive coverage requirement, Politico reports (Haberkorn, Politico, 7/3).
The contraceptive coverage rules -- the target of multiple lawsuits from religiously affiliated organizations -- implement a provision in the health reform law that requires health plans to cover preventive services without copayments or deductibles. Originally, the Obama administration exempted certain religious employers from covering contraceptive services for their employees, but it did not exempt religious organizations with more general missions, such as Catholic hospitals and universities.
After many religious leaders said the definition was too narrow, the administration announced in February that it would alter the rules so that religiously affiliated employers will not have to offer contraceptive coverage for their employees, but their health insurance companies will be required to provide no-cost coverage directly to women (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/18).
The first lawsuits challenging the contraceptive coverage rules were filed late last year and could go to trial late this year, according to Politico. To date, 23 lawsuits have been filed across the country. The plaintiffs -- which include regional Catholic archdioceses backed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and academic institutions such as the University of Notre Dame -- argue that the requirement infringes on their religious freedom.
According to Politico, several religious groups think their case might be bolstered by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opinion on the health reform law's individual mandate. Ginsburg said the individual mandate is constitutional but added, "A mandate to purchase a particular product would be unconstitutional if, for example, the edict impermissibly abridged the freedom of speech, interfered with the free exercise of religion or infringed on a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause."
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the conservative Galen Institute, said that "the fact that [Ginsburg] put that in there seems to me a suggestion to the administration that you need to find a way to figure this out" (Politico, 7/3).