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Appeals Court rules against contraception mandate, making SCOTUS review likely

AP photo

AP photo

The time may be ripe for the Supreme Court to once again decide on the Obamcare contraception mandate.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis broke with other appeals courts on Thursday. The pair of decisions ruled that the Obamacare contraception mandate’s opt-out program violated the rights of religious employers. Even though the employers do not have to pay for the contraception, they still argue that signing the opt-out form makes them complicit.

In writing the opinion, Circuit Judge Roger Wollam addressed this issue when he made it about the employer’s “sincere religious belief that their participation in the accommodation process makes them morally and spiritually complicit in providing abortifacient coverage.”

The opinion also came out against the government imposing fines on non-compliant employers. “When the government imposes a direct monetary penalty to coerce conduct that violates religious belief, ‘[t]here has never been a question that the government ‘imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion,'” it read.

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty hailed the outcome:

Fifteen federal judges now agree that the government has no right to dictate or second guess a person’s sincere religious beliefs. The government keeps telling the Supreme Court ‘Move along, nothing important here’ in hopes that the Court will ignore this crucial issue. But with today’s decisions, the Court will have great reason to decide this issue in the next term.

Until Thursday’s decision, all of the other federal appeals courts which had decided the matter did so in favor of the government. Thus, the Becket Fund says it “drastically increases the likelihood of a Supreme Court review of the HHS Mandate.”

A statement from the Obama administration is “disappointed,” but ultimately believes that the mandate will be upheld. “As all of the other seven courts of appeals to address this issue have held, the contraceptive accommodation process strikes the proper balance between ensuring women have equal access to health care and protecting religious beliefs,” said a spokeswoman.

The Supreme Court’s term starts in October and goes until June.

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