Don’t block birth control mandate, Obama urges

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration urged a Supreme Court justice Friday to stop blocking the new health care law’s requirement that some religion-affiliated organizations provide health insurance that includes birth control.

The Justice Department called on Justice Sonia Sotomayor to dissolve her last-minute stay on the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Sotomayor issued the stay on New Year’s Eve, only hours before the law’s coverage went into effect.

Under the health care law, most health insurance plans have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women, free of cost to the patient. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the birth control requirement, but affiliated institutions that serve the general public are not. That includes charitable organizations, universities and hospitals.

In response to an outcry, the government came up with a compromise that requires insurers or health plan administrators to provide birth control coverage but allows the religious group to distance itself from that action. The exemption is triggered when the religious group signs a form for the insurer saying that it objects to the coverage.

The insurer can then go forward with the coverage.

A group of Denver nuns who run nursing homes for the poor, called the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, say signing that form makes them complicit in providing contraceptive coverage, and therefore violates their religious beliefs. They want Sotomayor to make the injunction permanent until the case can be hashed out in court, or for the Supreme Court to agree to take their case now.

Government officials “are simply blind to the religious exercise at issue: The Little Sisters and other applicants cannot execute the form because they cannot deputize a third party to sin on their behalf,” said their lawyer, Mark Rienzi, who is also senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

But Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in court papers that nothing in the law will make those nuns pay for birth control for their employees. The nuns’ insurance is provided through a church plan that is not required to provide contraceptive coverage and has said it will not, he said, making their complaint baseless.

“With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this court — an exemption from the requirements of the contraceptive-coverage provision — and the employer-applicants’ employees (and their family members) will not receive contraceptive coverage through the plan’s third-party administrator either. The application should be denied,” Verrilli argued.

It is not known when Sotomayor will make a decision.

More in Local News

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders apprentice Janette Alhanati (left) and journeyman Kurt Warwick construct wall panels for an upcoming boat project with Linblad Expedition Holdings. A federal grant from the Northwest Workforce Council will allow Nichols Brothers to add more apprentices to its workforce starting in January 2018.
Whidbey Island boatbuilder gets hiring boost

The grant from the Northwest Workforce Council will help expand the company’s apprenticeship program.

Most Read