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A file photo of US President Obama. Photo: Bloomberg
A file photo of US President Obama. Photo: Bloomberg

Obamacare birth control coverage mandate ruled unconstitutional

A provision of US President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms requiring group insurance to cover contraceptives violates constitutional right, rules court

San Francisco: A provision of US President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms requiring group insurance plans to cover contraceptives violates the constitutional right to religious freedom, said a federal appeals court in Washington.

A three-judge panel ruled on Friday in a lawsuit filed by two brothers who are Catholic and, on religious grounds, excluded coverage for contraceptives from the health plans of their produce-distribution companies in violation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“We 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," wrote Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown. “We conclude it does."

Two other appeals courts have ruled on the constitutionality of the contraception coverage mandate that’s part of Obama’s healthcare legislation.

In July, the Obama administration defeated a challenge to the law by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a cabinet maker owned by Mennonite Christians who argued the requirement violates their religious beliefs. The US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in a 2-1 decision sided with the government that the mandate was constitutional.

In June, a federal appeals court in Denver ruled that Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. was likely to prevail with its argument that the provision violates the rights of the company and its owners under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

In the Washington case, the court said a federal judge erred in not granting the brothers a reprieve from the rule while their lawsuit challenging it proceeds.They reversed the lower court’s decision and sent the case back for further consideration by the federal judge. The case is Gilardi v. Department of Health and Human Services, 13-104, US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington). Bloomberg

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