A federal appeals court struck down Obamacare's controversial birth control mandate, declaring that requiring contraception coverage in employee health plans is unduly burdensome for business owners who oppose birth control on religious grounds.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 2-1 Friday in favor of Francis and Philip Gilardi, the Roman Catholic owners of Ohio-based Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics, who argued that the provision in the new healthcare law would violate their religious freedom, The Hill reports
"The burden on religious exercise does not occur at the point of contraceptive purchase; instead, it occurs when a company's owners fill the basket of goods and services that constitute a healthcare plan," wrote Judge Janice Rogers Brown in the court's decision.
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Had the plaintiffs refused to comply with the law, they would have faced a $14 million fine.
Two of the judges on the panel disagreed with parts of the ruling, saying the rights of religious people do not extend to the companies they own.
The Obama administration has long argued that the requirement under the Affordable Care Act for contraceptive coverage — including sterilization — as a free preventative service is necessary to protect women's reproductive rights, though churches and other houses of worship are already exempt from the provision in the healthcare law.
Religious conservatives have blasted the requirement
as a violation of First Amendment rights.
The case is the latest in a string of challenges
to the birth control mandate.
According to the Thomas Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, some 74 lawsuits with over 200 plaintiffs representing hospitals, universities, businesses, and schools have been filed challenging the mandate on grounds of religious liberty.
Rulings in the circuit courts have so far been mixed, leading legal analysts to predict the issue will reach the Supreme Court.
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