Monday, July 22, 2013

Hobby Lobby Wins Injunction Regarding Obamacare Provision

Hobby Lobby, one of the biggest arts-and-craft retail chain in the U.S., and founded on its Christian beliefs and principles, has just recently been granted a preliminary excemption from a provision in  the Obamacare birth control mandate requiring employers to grant insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar birth control or face steep fines.

The Green family that owns the chain and its sister company, the Mardel Christian bookstore chain, argues that their Christian religious beliefs are so deeply rooted, and having to provide all forms of birth control would go against their conscience. The Christian owners believe that “life begins at conception, so they oppose birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, such as an intrauterine device or forms of emergency contraception.”

The Green family further argues that businesses -- and not just the currently exempted religious group -- should be allowed to seek exception from that part of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs. On the other hand, lower courts earlier rejected Hobby Lobby's claim, saying that for-profit businesses aren't covered by an exemption added to the law for religious organizations.

However in November of last year, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton rejected the companies' request to block the mandate, saying that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations. Although at the same time, the judge also wrote that “"the court is not unsympathetic'' to Hobby Lobby's dilemma and that the question of compelling employer health coverage for certain procedures "involves largely uncharted waters.''

On July 19, 2013, Judge Heaton issued the injunction less than a month after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the companies were likely to prevail in the case. Heaton also ruled last month that the company would not be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day for not offering the birth control methods. The judge stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the federal government time to consider an appeal, and to give courts time to resolve "substantial unanswered questions. "The questions that are being presented here are new," Judge Heaton said.

Hobby Lobby president Steve Green said, “"We're just very excited. This is a great step for us."

Meanwhile, HobbyLobby offers 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care law in its health insurance plans.

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