WASHINGTON (AP) — An attorney for Hobby Lobby Stores said Thursday that the arts and crafts chain plans to defy a federal mandate requiring it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill, despite risking potential fines of up to $1.3 million per day.
Hobby Lobby and religious book-seller Mardel Inc., which are owned by the same conservative Christian family, are suing to block a regulation implementing a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). The regulation requires non-grandfathered health plans and individual health insurance policies to cover basic preventive services without imposing cost-sharing requirements on the enrollees. A preventive services package regulation requires health plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.
Hobby Lobby and Mardel say the mandate violates the religious beliefs of their owners. They say the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman's womb.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied the companies' request for an injunction while their lawsuit is pending, saying the stores failed to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may still challenge the regulations in the lower courts.
Kyle Duncan, who is representing Hobby Lobby on behalf of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement posted on the group's website Thursday that Hobby Lobby doesn't intend to offer its employees insurance that would cover the drug while its lawsuit is pending.
"The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees," Duncan said. "To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."
In ruling against the companies last month, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton said churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the birth-control provisions but that "Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations."