Lawsuits challenging the birth-control mandate in Obamacare are to be heard by federal appeals courts beginning Wednesday, as private businesses opposed, on religious grounds, to the healthcare requirement try to push the issue to the Supreme Court.
Two of the cases start Wednesday in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Oral arguments in three other cases are to be heard in other appeals courts by early June, according to Politico.
The challenges — cases brought by a crafts store, an auto-parts manufacturer, a contractor, a woodworker, and light manufacturer — all argue that the Obamacare requirement that insurance plans cover birth control violates the religious beliefs of the owners, and the companies should receive the same waiver or exemption as nonprofit religious organizations.
"What the mandate is requiring our clients to do is to arrange for, pay for and provide coverage that runs contrary to their religious beliefs," Edward White, an attorney representing Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, told Politico.
The Obama administration, however, argues that access to birth-control drugs is in the public interest and should be unhindered by employers' religious beliefs.
Kyle Duncan, an attorney from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby crafts, says its owners believe they should be granted the same religious liberties as individuals, whether they run a business or a nonprofit.
He told Politico that the key question in the Hobby Lobby lawsuit — to be heard Thursday by 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver — is: “Does the mere fact that they’re a profit-making business … negate their right to freedom of exercise of religion?”
For-profit companies were supposed to start offering birth-control coverage in August 2012, but Hobby Lobby and other companies have avoided paying fines or have obtained injunctions to block enforcement of the rule while their cases proceed.
Kevin Walsh, a University of Richmond law professor, told Politico that the outcome of the cases could impact a final compromise the administration is trying to work out this summer with nonprofit groups.
"If [the Department of Justice] loses these cases, that’s a big, big setback for them,” Walsh said. “Government losses would be more sweeping than government wins.”
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