Friday, August 04, 2017

3rd Circuit Rejects Secular Anti-Abortion Group's Challenge To ACA Contraceptive Mandate

In Real Alternatives Inc. v. Secretary Department of Health and Human Services, (3d Cir. Aug. 4, 2017), a 3-judge panel of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals held unanimously that the Equal Protection Clause does not require the government to provide a secular anti-abortion group with the same exemption from the Affordable Care act contraceptive coverage mandate as is provided to houses of worship. The majority said in part:
Real Alternatives is in no way like a religious denomination or one of its nontheistic counterparts—not in structure, not in aim, not in purpose, and not in function. We do not doubt that Real Alternatives’s stance on contraceptives is grounded in sincerely-held moral values, but “religion is not generally confined to one question or one moral teaching; it has a broader scope.”
The court by a vote of 2-1 also rejected a claim under RFRA that religious exercise of employees who oppose contraceptives, but work for secular employers, is substantially burdened when the government requires the employer to include contraceptive coverage in their health plans. Judge Jordan filed an an opinion dissenting on this issue.  He contended that requiring objecting employees to pay for insurance that includes contraceptive coverage creates a substantial burden and that the government had not used the least restrictive means to achieve a compelling governmental interest. Legal Intelligencer reports on the decision.