The long fight over whether businesses should cover birth control in their employer-provided health coverage took another turn Friday when a federal court overturned
a provision of the Affordable Care act mandating such a requirement:
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—the second most influential bench in the land behind the Supreme Court—ruled 2-1 in favor of business owners who are fighting the requirement that they provide their employees with health insurance that covers birth control.
Requiring companies to cover their employees’ contraception, the court ruled, is unduly burdensome for business owners who oppose birth control on religious grounds, even if they are not purchasing the contraception directly.
“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,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote on behalf of the court.
Brown is a George W. Bush appointee.
Negotiations leading to the final ACA rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in June exempted churches, mosques and other houses of worship from the birth control mandate. Additionally, employees of religiously affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals can obtain birth control coverage directly from their insurance companies.
A question for the court majority: Does this mean that owners of businesses who are Christian Scientists shouldn't, on religious grounds, have to provide employees with health insurance that covers aspirin or asthma drugs?