The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday issued an order [text, PDF] in Zubik v. Burwell [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) [text] birth control mandate, directing the parties to file supplemental briefs. The court, in its order, said that the additional briefs should “address whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.” The court also invited parties to address other proposals along similar lines.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in seven cases in November, which were then consolidated into the present case. Petitioners, religious non-profit institutions, challenged aspects of the birth control mandate under the health care reform laws in the US. It heard oral arguments in the consolidated cases in March. The mandate has caused a great deal of controversy throughout the country sine its implementation. In September five judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion stating that the circuit’s decision to uphold the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was “clearly and gravely wrong.” In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit businesses that are “closely held” (i.e., owned by a small number of individuals) may be exempted [JURIST report] from the birth-control mandate of the ACA if the owners had a religious objection to one or more mandated birth control devices or methods, in addition to the non-profit exception.