A three-judge panel on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Sept. 17 that three Christian colleges and a ministry had their religious beliefs violated when they were given the option to opt-out of providing emergency contraception coverage, which they all oppose, for their employees.
Under the Obamacare mandate, religious employers can fill out paperwork to opt out of directly funding emergency contraceptives, which then become the responsibility of insurance companies.
However, Heartland Christian College, Dordt College, Cornerstone University and CNS International Ministries Inc object to opting out of the process because their employees would then have access to emergency contraceptives, which the colleges and ministry claim could cause abortions, notes the Associated Press.
NPR reported in 2013 that medical studies have shown that emergency contraception, also known as morning-after pills, do not cause abortions. The New York Times noted the same in 2012.
8th Circuit Judge Roger Wollman wrote in the ruling that the court must defer to the colleges' and ministry's "sincere religious belief that their participation in the accommodation process makes them morally and spiritually complicit in providing abortifacient coverage," notes Reuters.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the only federal court to side against the U.S. government on this issue, but it was the three-judge panel, not the full court, which would be the next step if the Obama administration chooses to appeal.
The White House said in a statement: "As all of the other seven U.S. courts of appeals to address this issue have held, the contraceptive accommodation process strikes the proper balance between ensuring women have equal access to health care and protecting religious beliefs."