WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Monday sided with an anti-abortion group that challenged a key birth control provision of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul.
March for Life sued the Obama administration last year over a requirement that health insurers cover the cost of contraceptive services.
The organization said the requirement violated its strongly held position against abortion. The group holds an annual march in Washington.
Religious organizations are exempt from the requirement. But in a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said groups did not need to voice religious objections to challenge the requirement.
Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers represented March for Life, said Leon’s decision was the first to side with an organization that opposed the contraceptive mandate on moral rather than religious grounds.
Lawsuits over the so-called contraceptive mandate are part of the lengthy political and legal battle over the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010.
There have been about 100 lawsuits from businesses and religiously affiliated colleges, hospitals and other not-for-profit organizations challenging the law’s requirement that contraceptives for women be included among a range of cost-free, preventive benefits.
Churches, synagogues and other religious institutions are exempt from this requirement. Other religiously affiliated groups also do not have to comply, but have to tell the government they object. That requirement is at the heart of lawsuits over the contraceptive mandate. Federal appeals courts have so far ruled that informing the government of a religious objection does not interfere with the groups’ religious rights. Several appeals already are pending at the Supreme Court.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of family-controlled businesses with a religious objection to paying for some or all of the approved contraceptives. Their employees could still receive the birth control, but through an arrangement with the businesses’ insurers or third-party insurance administrators. The government covers the cost of the contraceptives in those circumstances.
Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.
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