7th Cir. Takes a Stand on the Obamacare Contraception Mandate

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on November 13, 2013 12:37 PM

With religious challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate popping up all over the country, the Seventh Circuit has taken a stance -- and has even taken it a step further than other courts.

The Seventh Circuit has determined that people and their secular, for-profit companies can challenge the contraception mandate on religious grounds, and remanded with instructions to enter preliminary injunctions preventing enforcement of the contraception mandate.

While other courts have come to similar conclusions, the Seventh Circuit is the only one to instruct the district court to issue injunctions.

Korte, et al v. Sebelius, et al.

In the latest of the Obamacare contraception mandate cases, the facts in the Seventh Circuit case are not unlike the other cases percolating around the country. Plaintiffs are Catholics who do not believe in birth control, and they -- through their secular, for-profit, closely-held corporation -- do not want to abide by the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

They sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"), seeking a preliminary injunction. The district court denied their motion, and the Seventh Circuit issued an injunction pending appeal. The Seventh Circuit, in a 64-page decision, held "business owners and their companies may challenge the mandate" because "compelling them to cover those services substantially burdens their religious exercise rights."

The Dissent

Judge Ilana Rovner dissented arguing that corporations are legal constructs, incapable of entertaining questions relating to religion -- and which are uniquely human. She stated: "Religious beliefs have to do with such fundamental questions as the nature of mankind, where we come from, our place in the world, what happens when we dies, and our relationships with and obligations to other people."

The Circuit Split

The circuit split tally thus far is: The Third Circuit and Sixth Circuit respect the long-recognized distinction between people, and corporations as legal entities, while the Tenth Circuit and now Seventh don't see the legal distinctions. It should be noted that the D.C. Circuit also addressed this issue and held that individuals can challenge the contraception mandate, though it did not extend the privilege to corporations.

With cert petitions filed in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it will grant certiorari before Thanksgiving, reports The New York Times. We would be very surprised if the Supreme Court did not grant certiorari, given the importance of uniformly applying the law throughout the country. We only have to wait a few weeks to see if the Court chooses to hear the cases.

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