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Supreme Court justice blocks contraception mandate in lawsuit

US Supreme Court [official website] Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an emergency temporary injunction [order, PDF] on Tuesday blocking the enforcement of the contraception mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder] against the religious group Little Sisters For the Poor [advocacy website]. Little Sisters filed a motion [text, PDF] for an emergency injunction Tuesday after the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] declined to issue an injunction [order] earlier that day. The injunction applies to the Little Sisters as well as several other religious groups that use the same health plan. Sotomayor ordered the government to respond to the application for injunction by Friday. At that time, she will decide whether or not to lift the injunction.

The contraception mandate has been a subject of legal uncertainty since the PPACA was signed into law [JURIST report]. In September, the Obama administration petitioned [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the constitutionality of the mandate. In September the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Autocam Corp., a manufacturer of car and medical supplies, must comply with the PPACA's contraception coverage mandate. In July the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that family-owned, profit-making businesses cannot challenge the new federal health care law's birth control mandate on religious grounds. The previous month, however, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that Hobby Lobby may challenge the mandate on religious grounds. In February the Obama administration issued a new rule [JURIST report] that details a broader exemption to the contraception mandate, allowing for religious nonprofits that object to providing health insurance coverage for birth control to opt out of the requirement.

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