(Adds court action)
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Roman Catholic
Church-affiliated organizations on Tuesday obtained last-minute
court injunctions that give them temporary exemptions from a
part of the Obamacare healthcare law that requires employers to
provide insurance policies covering contraception.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted one
temporary injunction to Baltimore-based Little Sisters of the
Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services, plus
Two different appeals courts granted stays in three other
cases that had been pending at the high court, filed by various
organizations, including Catholic University of America and
non-profits in Michigan and Tennessee, according to a lawyer
representing the groups. The lower court action meant the
Supreme Court did not need to act in those cases.
The groups were all asking the courts to exempt them
temporarily from the so-called contraception mandate while
litigation continues. The mandate, which was due to take effect
for the organizations on Wednesday, is already in place for many
women who have private health insurance.
The organizations accuse the federal government of forcing
them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of
their religious beliefs or face steep fines.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires
employers to provide health insurance policies that cover
preventive services for women, including contraception and
The act makes an exception for religious institutions such
as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of
their own faith, but not schools, hospitals and charitable
organizations that employ people of all faiths.
As a compromise, the administration agreed to an
accommodation for non-profits affiliated with religious entities
that was finalized in July.
Under the accommodation, eligible non-profits have to
provide a "self certification" - described by one lower court
judge as a "permission slip" - that authorizes the insurance
companies to provide the coverage. The challengers say that step
alone is enough to violate their religious rights.
In separate cases, the Supreme Court already has agreed to
hear oral arguments on whether for-profit corporations have the
basis to object to the contraception mandate on religious
grounds. The court is due to hear the arguments in March and
decide the two consolidated cases by the end of June.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Terry
Baynes; Editing by Howard Goller, Steve Orlofsky and Bill Trott)
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