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May 16, 2016

High Court Kicks Contraceptive Mandate Back to Lower Courts

The Supreme Court decided Monday not to decide on the clash between the Obama administration and religious nonprofits over the Affordable Care Act’s requirements on birth-control coverage, instead sending the issue back to lower courts, Bloomberg and CNN report.

In a unanimous ruling, the eight justices said they were expressing “no view on the merits of the cases” brought by faith groups to challenge the requirement that employees’ health insurance includes contraceptive care, and they urged the two sides to work out a compromise.

Most federal appeals courts that have heard cases on the Obamacare rule have upheld a White House workaround that allows faith nonprofits to opt out of offering contraceptive coverage themselves, triggering provision by the government or third-party insurers. Plaintiffs say the accommodation still makes them complicit in providing contraception, imposing a burden on their religious freedom.

With the late Antonin Scalia’s seat still vacant, the justices appeared split 4-4 during a March hearing and shortly afterward issued an unusual order that the opposing parties file new briefs addressing a potential compromise. That effort fizzled.