KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

High Court Temporarily Sides With Christian College On Contraceptives

The Supreme Court ruled that while Wheaton College's suit objecting to the Obama administration's accommodation on birth control goes forward, the college could be exempted. That order drew a furious response from the three women justices.

The Associated Press: High Court Grants Wheaton College Plea
A divided Supreme Court on Thursday allowed, at least for now, an evangelical college in Illinois that objects to paying for contraceptives in its health plan to avoid filling out a government document that the college says would violate its religious beliefs. The justices said that Wheaton College does not have to fill out the contested form while its case is on appeal but can instead write the Department of Health and Human Services declaring that it is a religious nonprofit organization and making its objection to emergency contraception. The college does provide coverage for other birth control (Sherman, 7/3).

The Wall Street Journal: High Court Female Justices Dissent From Wheaton Contraception Order
The majority's order, which was unsigned, "risks depriving hundreds of Wheaton's employees and students of their legal entitlement to contraceptive coverage," she wrote. And because many other religious nonprofits have raised similar objections to birth control, the ruling "will presumably entitle hundreds or thousands of other objectors to the same remedy" (Bravin, 7/3). 

The New York Times: Birth Control Order Deepens Divide Among Justices
The court’s order was brief, provisional and unsigned, but it drew a furious reaction from the three female members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. The order, Justice Sotomayor wrote, was at odds with the 5-to-4 decision on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which involved for-profit corporations (Liptak, 7/3). 

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Sides With Christian College In Birth Control Case
“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” wrote Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. “Not so today.” ...  After the Hobby Lobby decision, the court sent back for reconsideration by lower courts cases that involved companies whose owners say their religious beliefs do not allow them to offer any contraceptives (Barnes, 7/3).

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court OKs Another Religious Birth Control Exemption
On Monday, in its decision in the Hobby Lobby case, the court approved religious exemptions for companies whose owners have religious objections to certain forms of contraception. In their opinions, the justices spoke approvingly of a compromise position the administration had previously adopted that is designed to shield religiously affiliated nonprofit employers from paying directly for contraceptives. The language in Monday’s decision appeared to signal that the court would uphold the administration’s compromise, which has been challenged by dozens of religious colleges and charities. But in Thursday’s order, the court granted Wheaton College, an evangelical Protestant liberal arts school west of Chicago, a temporary injunction allowing it to continue to not comply with the compromise rule (Savage, 7/3).

Reuters: Supreme Court Awards Wheaton College Temporary Exemption On Obamacare Birth Control
The administration had already crafted a compromise for religious-affiliated nonprofits that allows them to "self-certify" to their insurance carriers in a form that they object, on religious grounds, to providing contraception coverage. But various nonprofits, including Wheaton, said the act of signing the form also infringed on their religious rights. The court said in its order that the college could instead send a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to state its religious objections (Lawder, 7/3).

Meanwhile --

Politico: Religious Groups Prep For Hobby Lobby Repeat
The religious groups have to make a different argument because, thanks to an accommodation that the administration devised to try to avert a political backlash, they don’t have to provide contraception directly. So far, they’ve been unsuccessful in lower courts in challenging that special provision. ... Elsewhere, the 3rd, 5th and 10th Circuit courts are facing similar cases, ... If any of the appellate courts rule against the government, it would create conflicting opinions and give the Supreme Court another reason to look at the issue (Haberkorn, 7/3).


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