The U.S. Supreme Court declined to expand its review of President Barack Obama’s push to guarantee insurance coverage for contraceptives, rejecting appeals from Catholic groups, including the archdiocese of Washington.
The justices today left intact rulings by two federal trial judges in the nation’s capital that the administration wasn’t violating the rights of the diocese, Catholic University and eight religious groups. The appeals were longshots because they asked the high court to take the unusual step of bypassing the intermediate appellate level.
The Supreme Court already is considering whether for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that worker health plans include birth-control coverage. The court will rule by July in that case, which stems from Obama’s 2010 health-care law.
The two appeals acted on today concerned the mechanisms the administration devised so that religious nonprofit groups won’t have to pay for services they consider immoral. Under Department of Health and Human Services rules, those groups can sign a form attesting to their religious objections.
In some cases, the form then triggers a requirement that the insurance carrier offer the contraceptive coverage. Insurers can seek reimbursement from the federal government.
The Catholic groups say the arrangements are inadequate and still require them to facilitate coverage. Today’s rejection doesn’t preclude Supreme Court review after an appeals court rules.
A federal appeals court in December shielded the groups from having to comply with the requirements while the litigation plays out. The Supreme Court later took a similar step in a case involving Little Sisters of the Poor, temporarily exempting them as long as they informed federal officials of their views in writing.
The cases are Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Sebelius, 13-829, and Priests for Life v. Sebelius, 13-891.
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