Flurry of Rulings on Religious Institutions and Health Law

January 2, 2014

The past few weeks have seen a series of rulings on whether some parts of the new federal health law requiring employers to provide coverage that includes birth control should apply to religious institutions that oppose birth control or some forms of birth control. The new law exempts churches from birth control requirements that conflict with their beliefs, but this does not extend to religious institutions such as colleges and social service organizations. Under a compromise proposed by the Obama administration, such institutions will not have to pay for birth control coverage, but their employees and students will be able to obtain birth control through arrangements with insurance companies.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary stay of the birth control requirement for religious institutions, and asked the Obama administration to file a response on Friday. The ruling came in a suit brought by an order of nuns that operates nursing homes for low-income people. Also in December, several religious colleges won injunctions against parts of the health care law, while the University of Notre Dame was denied such an injunction. Notre Dame is vowing to appeal. A Supreme Court ruling in the case involving the nuns could resolve many of these disputes. Justice Sotomayor's injunction was not a ruling on the merits of the case.




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