Appeals court upholds objection to ACA contraception policy

Appeals court upholds objection to ACA contraception policy | Insurance Business America

Appeals court upholds objection to ACA contraception policy

Birth control opponents won an early round in the fight against the Affordable Care Act provision that requires employers to offer birth control coverage through their insurance policies. In a Friday decision, the DC Circuit Court held that the mandate “trammels” the expression of religious freedom.

“The purpose of the Free Exercise Clause is to secure religious liberty in the individual by prohibiting any invasions thereof by the civil authority. And that understanding still resonates with the modern court,” Judge Janice Brown wrote in the court’s decision.

The case was brought by Catholic brothers Phil and Frank Gilardi, who own Ohio-based Freshway Foods. The Gilardis accept the ACA’s requirement that they provide healthcare coverage for their employees, but they oppose the birth control mandate on religious grounds.

Judges noted that the Gilardis found themselves on “the horns of an impossible dilemma” and decided to sue over the mandate. They were backed by the American Center for Law and Justice, the legal group founded by controversial televangelist Pat Robertson.

The court ruled in favor of the Gilardis, 2-1.

The decision marks the fourth time a federal appeals court has heard arguments against contraception’s inclusion in employee coverage, and the second time a court has ruled in favor of birth control opponents.

The DC Court viewed the matter distinctly differently from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on a similar case this summer.

While the 3rd Circuit held that allowing employers to deny contraception coverage to employees would “eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners,” the DC Court held that because the Gilardis were shareholders in their company, their corporation was allowed First Amendment freedoms.

With the federal appeals court split on the contraception mandate, parties on both sides are looking to the Supreme Court to take up the issue and provide a final ruling.