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Supreme Court declines to review challenges to contraception mandate

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday denied review [order list, PDF] of two cases brought by Roman Catholic non-profit groups seeking an exemption from part of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [materials; JURIST backgrounder] requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Both cases, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Sebelius and Priests for Life, v. Department of Health and Human Services [dockets], were seeking certiorari prior to decisions from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website]. After the appellate court renders a decision, both petitioners could still petition for certiorari if they wish to appeal the cases further. Oral arguments in Priests for Life v. HHS are expected to occur [Priests for Life press release] on May 8.

These cases differ from the current Supreme Court cases involving for-profits arguing against the contraception mandate [JURIST backgrounder] because these cases involve religious non-profit organizations. In the for-profit cases, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] last week on whether companies have a right to an exemption from the contraception provision of the PPACA for religious reasons. The plaintiffs in the combined cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc. and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius [SCOTUSblog backgrounders] contend they should be exempt from some of the coverage requirements of the PPACA's pregnancy-related services mandate, including certain "abortifacient" contraceptives. The corporations argue that the regulation will impose a "substantial burden" on the corporations' exercise of religion, which is protected by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [text]. Alternatively, the corporations have asserted a claim that the mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The Supreme Court must decide whether corporations can "exercise" religion under the RFRA.

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