Appeals Court Strikes Down Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

| by Khier Casino

A divided federal appeals court struck down the birth control mandate that businesses cover under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Friday.

According to the Associated Press, the appeals court panel sided with Ohio business owners and brothers Francis and Philip M. Gilardi, who say the mandate to offer contraceptive coverage would go against their own Roman Catholic beliefs.

The 2-1 decision marks another defeat for the mandate, MedPage reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the ruling, which is one of many about issues on birth control. The matter of contention will likely be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The appeals court panel says it "trammels" the expression of religious freedom.

The brothers, who own Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics of Sidney, Ohio, say they do not want to offer contraceptives such as the Plan B pill to their workers.

The Hamilton Journal-News reports that the firm’s anti-abortion views are made very well-known to the public. Freshway Foods trucks carry signs that say, “It’s not a choice, it’s a child.”

Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a George W. Bush appointee, contends in the majority opinion that the Gilardi’s rights were violated because of Obamacare’s imposition of birth control mandate, the Atlantic Wire reports.

"As adherents of the Catholic faith, the Gilardis oppose contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Accordingly, the two brothers—exercising their powers as owners and company executives—excluded coverage of products and services falling under these categories.

"But along came the Affordable Care Act,” it continued.

“[W]e must determine whether the contraceptive mandate imposed by the Act trammels the right of free exercise—a right that lies at the core of our constitutional liberties—as protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We conclude it does.”

Brown explains that the government did not roll out a need for mandating the coverage. "What exactly," the opinion reads, "is the government trying to ameliorate?"

For this reasons: “The contraceptive mandate demands that owners like the Gilardis meaningfully approve and endorse the inclusion of contraceptive coverage in their companies’ employer- provided plans, over whatever objections they may have. Such an endorsement—procured exclusively by regulatory ukase—is a ‘compel[led] affirmation of a repugnant belief.’ … That, standing alone, is a cognizable burden on free exercise.”

The Atlantic Wire notes one of the dissenting opinions argued that it was the company that provided the coverage, not the brothers. So, the Gilardi’s religious rights weren’t being violated.

"They are not required to use or endorse contraception, and they remain free to openly oppose contraception,” the dissent reads. “The Mandate requires nothing more than that the companies, not the Gilardis, offer medical insurance that includes coverage of contraceptive services for those employees who want it."

The Gilardis filed the lawsuit in January, but the next step is still unclear. The government will likely appeal the case as it makes its way to the Supreme Court.