Belmont Abbey College in Gaston County won a lawsuit against the “contraceptive mandate,” a section of the health care reform law requiring employer-provided insurance to offer free access to contraceptives, like birth control pills. Wednesday’s decision is part of a series of lawsuits around the country that could ultimately bring another piece of the law before the Supreme Court.
The mandate already exempts churches and houses of worship, but not colleges and hospitals with religious ties. So, Belmont Abbey—which is Roman Catholic—and Illinois’ Wheaton College—which is evangelical Christian—sued the government, saying contraception violates their beliefs, too. Yesterday, the D.C. Court of Appeals agreed, and it ordered the Obama administration to revise the law. The administration had previously stated its intent to do so, even before yesterday’s decision, but the ruling mandated the provision change by March.
There are over 40 similar suits across the country challenging the contraceptive mandate. Stuart Taylor Jr., a former New York Times court reporter and a fellow at the Brookings Institute, says there are enough cases and enough controversy that the entire mandate could end up in court.
“There are already conflicting decisions among lower courts. Several courts have held that it’s unconstitutional . There seems to be a pretty serious legal issue here that the free exercise of religion rights are being violated,” Taylor says. “Those are all the ingredients for a case that could end up before the Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court already ruled on the health care law’s constitutionality last summer, and that’s not in jeopardy because of these decisions.