Supreme Court grants cert. in birth control mandate challenge

Supreme Court grants cert. in birth control mandate challenge

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Friday granted [order, PDF] certiorari in seven cases where petitioners, religious non-profit institutions, challenge aspects of the birth control mandate under the health care reform laws in the US [JURIST feature]. The seven cases will be consolidated for oral argument, which is scheduled for March. The dispute [SCOTUSblog report] centers around the birth control mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [bill text]. Petitioners argue that they fall under an accomodation set out in a 2013 rule making that clarified the PPACA by providing an exemption for houses of worship and similar religious organizations from the birth control mandate, subsequent to certification from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website] that the organization had religious objections to providing contraception [Health Affairs backgrounder], based on the privilege provided by the US government pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [bill text, PDF]. The first issue to be considered by the Court is the first question presented in the petition from Zubik v. Burwell [SCOUTSblog materials], stated as follows:

Whether the HHS contraceptive-coverage mandate and its “accommodation” violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing religious nonprofits to act in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs, when the government has not proven that this compulsion is the least restrictive means of advancing any compelling interest.

Additionally, the Court will review issues one and two from the petition filed in Little Sisters for the Poor Home of the Aged v. Burwell [SCOTUSblog materials], stated as follows:

(1) Whether the availability of a regulatory method for nonprofit religious employers to comply with the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate eliminates either the substantial burden on religious exercise or the violation of RFRA that this Court recognized in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; and (2) whether HHS satisfies RFRA’s demanding test for overriding sincerely held religious objections in circumstances where HHS itself insists that overriding the religious objection will not fulfill HHS’s regulatory objective-namely, the provision of no-cost contraceptives to the objector’s employees.