Area Businesses Challenge Federal Birth Control Mandate | KCUR

Area Businesses Challenge Federal Birth Control Mandate

Jan 14, 2013

A federal court is scheduled today, to take up one Missouri business’ challenge to a recently enacted provision of the federal health law. The provision requires that most employee-health plans include no-cost coverage of contraceptives, but the rule has faced backlash from several businesses and lawmakers around the region.

*January 15, 2013 Update: A judge put Sharpe Holdings' case under submission and extended the temporary restraining order until a ruling is made on the injunction.

Private Businesses File Suit

Sharpe Holdings is a dairy company near St. Louis that last month, got a restraining order against the so called contraceptive mandate. The rule requires that employers provide birth control coverage to insured workers, unless the company is a religious group.

“Nobody has much trouble understanding that nonprofit religious organizations would have claims that would be founded on the first amendment, freedom of religion," says Tim Belz, a lawyer for Sharpe Holdings "But a for-profit company can be religious, too."

Belz argued that Sharpe is one of them, and that the owner has religious objections to covering certain kinds of contraceptives.

A judge has yet to make a final decision on the case. A preliminary hearing on the case is set for later today, as a temporary restraining order on the federal rule expires.

Sharpe is one of a handful of Missouri businesses and several more nationwide, challenging this new coverage requirement.

Some of the legal challenges, like that of Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, have been rejected. A previously dismissed challenge by another Missouri business was recently revived in an appeal.

State Law At Odds With Federal Rule

The challenges come amid a recent court ruling that temporarily blocked a new state law from taking effect, which directly contradicts the federal contraceptive rule. Senate Bill 749, passed after the legislature overrode the governor’s veto last year, requires insurance companies to exclude birth control coverage if employers have religious objections.  

Calvin Call, head of the Missouri Insurance Coalition, the group which filed the challenge, says insurers just want clarification on which rule to follow.

“We take no position on the policies underlying the state and federal laws that are in conflict,” says Call. “We just can’t comply with one without conflicting with the other. The court just needs to pick one, one way or the other.”

Hearings on that case are slated for next week and month.


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