Ninth Circuit Court Upholds Block Against Trump Administration’s Religious Exemption for Businesses to HHS’ Contraceptive Mandate

Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor speaks to the media after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a block against the Trump administration’s religious exemption to the HHS’s contraceptive mandate.

In January, Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an injunction against the new rules on contraception coverage, which allowed employers to opt out of providing birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plans if it violated their religious or moral beliefs.

In a 2-1 decision released Tuesday, the majority decided to uphold Gilliam’s injunction banning enforcement of the religious exemption in several states.

Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace wrote the court’s opinion and was joined by Circuit Judge Susan P. Graber, with Circuit Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld authoring a dissent.

Wallace rejected the argument that religious groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor were unjustly burdened by the current exemption process to the HHS mandate, which requires an objecting organization to submit a form explaining their objections to authorities.

“Once the organization has taken the simple step of objecting, all actions taken to pay for or provide the organization’s employees with contraceptive care is carried out by a third party,” wrote Wallace.

“Viewed objectively, completing a form stating that one has a religious objection is not a substantial burden. … The burden is simply a notification, after which the organization is relieved of any role whatsoever in providing objectionable care.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski