Christian-owned retail chain Hobby Lobby won the backing of some high-profile Republicans in its fight against Obamacare's birth-control mandate last week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and 10 other GOP lawmakers including Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas) filed an amici curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver last week in support of the arts-and-craft supply chain's fight against the contraception mandate, which requires health insurance plans to cover birth control. (h/t Courthouse News Service)
Like numerous other companies, charities and churches that have sued to block the birth control mandate, Hobby Lobby contends that the regulation violates its religious objections to birth control and abortion. The lawmakers Feb. 19 brief to the court argues that the regulation violates the company owners' right to practice their religion.
"It’s deeply troubling to see this White House trample on the religious freedom the law seeks to protect,” Hatch said in a press release. “Religious freedom is an issue our country was founded on." The lawmaker's Feb. 19 brief specifically says the birth control mandate runs counter to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
The health care reform law Obama enacted in 2010 includes provisions designed to encourage people to use more preventive health care services, such as screenings and tests, by eliminating co-payments. The rule also applies to contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including birth control pills and "morning-after pill" emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby's suit claims that emergency contraceptives and even forms of birth control such as IUDs can cause abortions.
The Obama administration has issued several versions of the birth control mandate in attempts to quell religious objections. The most recent, released earlier this month, exempts religious entities. Employees at religious non-profit organizations like hospitals can still obtain contraceptive coverage but only through a separate plan offered by the employers' insurance plan and provided at no cost to the firm or the worker. For-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, however, are subject to the rule.
Hobby Lobby has pledged to continue resisting the birth control mandate despite being vulnerable to federal fines. Religious organizations including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops still oppose the regulation despite revisions made by the Obama administration.
The Supreme Court ultimately may have to decide whether the birth control mandate violates the First Amendment rights of religious and privately owned institutions.