Female Justices Rip Contraception Mandate Exemption for College

Friday, 04 Jul 2014 05:00 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The Supreme Court's three female justices disagreed sharply with an order that temporarily exempts a Christian college in Illinois from the contraception mandates of Obamacare.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan said that Thursday's ruling appeared to retreat from the court's majority decision three days earlier in the Hobby Lobby case, The Hill reports.

"Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word," Sotomayor wrote in a 16-page dissent. She was joined by Ginsburg and Kagan. "Not so today."

The ruling involved Wheaton College, which is located just west of Chicago. The justices ruled 6-3 that the college did not have to fill out a form contesting the Obamacare emergency contraception mandate in court.

Wheaton College can, instead, write the Department of Health and Human Services declaring that it is a religious nonprofit organization and making its objection. The college does provide coverage for other birth control.

The order follows the Supreme Court's decision on Monday giving Hobby Lobby Inc. and other businesses with religious objections the ability to opt out of Obamacare's requirement for healthcare plans to cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of birth control.

The Obama administration had already offered a way out of paying for the contraceptives to faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals. The institutions must complete a document known as Form 700 that enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it.

Insurers are reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other Obamacare provisions.

Lower courts have denied requests for injunctions on Wheaton’s objection while the case moves through the courts, the Hill reports.

The issue is whether the requirement that the college must file the form violates its religious beliefs and "will make it complicit," according to the Hill.

That decision, the female justices argued, does not rest with the government.

"Let me be absolutely clear," Sotomayor wrote, The Hill reports.. "I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs.

"But thinking one's religious beliefs are substantially burdened — no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be — does not make it so."

Sotomayor added that the "claim ignores that the provision of contraceptive coverage is triggered not by its completion of the self-certification form, but by federal law."

In its objection, Wheaton College argued that "because it believes, as a religious matter, that signing the form would be impermissibly facilitating abortions and is therefore forbidden," Sotomayor wrote, The Hill reports.

The justice wrote that she did not question the college's beliefs but the rationale behind the request for the injunction falls far short of Supreme Court's requirements.

"The sincerity of Wheaton's deeply held religious beliefs is beyond refute," she wrote.

"But as a legal matter, Wheaton's application comes nowhere near the high bar necessary to warrant an emergency injunction from this court," Sotomayor wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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