OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The federal government is urging a federal judge to deny a Hobby Lobby Stores request to block enforcement of a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) regulation that requires employers to cover insurance costs for morning-after pill and the week-after pill.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now requires individual health policies and most employer-sponsored health plans to include coverage for birth control in their basic preventive services benefits package.
Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts supply chain, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City last month, alleging the mandate is unconstitutional and will force the company’s owners “to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits.” Failure to cover the drugs in Hobby Lobby’s health insurance plan could lead to fines of up to $1.3 million a day, according to the company.
The Oklahoma City-based chain requested an injunction to prohibit the law’s enforcement. But government attorneys claim Hobby Lobby cannot claim to exercise religion to avoid laws designed to regulate commercial activity.
“Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion,” the government said. It says a corporation and its owners are separate entities and Hobby Lobby’s owners, the Green family, cannot eliminate the legal separation to impose their religious beliefs on the company and its employees.
The government’s response also says granting an injunction “would permit for-profit, secular corporations and their owners to become laws unto themselves.”
Hobby Lobby is free to discourage the use of contraceptives, the government said, but an employee’s health care choices remain his or her own.