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Justice refuses to block morning-after pill rule

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday denied a request to block part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that requires employee health plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.

Hobby Lobby Stores and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government, claiming the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

In an opinion, Sotomayor said the stores fail to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts.

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Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their faith or face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1, 2013, if they ignore the law.

Attorneys for the government have said the drugs do not cause abortions and that the U.S. has a compelling interest in mandating insurance coverage for them.

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.”