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Justices send Affordable Care Act contraception case back to lower courts

🕐 1 min read

WASHINGTON – A shorthanded Supreme Court declined Monday to decide challenges to an Affordable Care Act requirement about providing contraceptive coverage, saying that there was a possibility of compromise between religious objectors and the government.

The court punted the issue back to lower courts, and said its unanimous ruling “expresses no view on the merits of the cases.”

In the unsigned opinion, the court emphasized: “In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”

The cases concern a provision of the Affordable Care Act that says employers who offer insurance coverage for their employees must include no-cost contraceptive coverage for women.

The Obama administration offered what it said was a compromise that allowed religiously affiliated organizations such as universities, hospitals and charities that wish to be freed from the obligation, but would still allow women to receive the coverage.

But the groups said the accommodation was not enough, and would still involve them in providing coverage that they say violates their religious beliefs.

The court’s action returns challenges filed across the country back to lower courts. That means a final decision on the challenges would be unlikely before President Obama leaves office.

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