U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor halted the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraception mandate just hours before it was to take effect Jan. 1, according to The New York Times. The mandate requires businesses to cover female employees’ contraceptive services – including birth control – without any deductible or out-of-pocket costs. However, the provision has been widely criticized by religious organizations that have called for exemptions from the clause.
The Washington Post reported the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns from Colorado, filed a lawsuit that claimed the regulation infringed upon their religious convictions. The nuns utilize a popular Roman Catholic healthcare plan known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust. Other organizations in the country that use the same plan also were covered by the temporary exemption.
Currently, under the ACA, employers with a religious affiliation, such as some hospitals, universities and school districts, are not required to cover women’s reproductive health services. Instead, those women must obtain supplemental coverage they are then reimbursed for. However, this amendment does not apply to organizations without a religious affiliation but that have owners whose personal religious views conflict with the mandate.
That too may change in 2014 as several private companies, such as Hobby Lobby, have cases to be heard before the Supreme Court.
The White House has until Jan. 3 to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision and propose a course of action.