OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The federal government asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to decide whether Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain have to provide a wide range of birth control options for workers as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The 251-page appeal was filed Thursday by U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli and other government attorneys.
The Oklahoma businesses have operated under a court order that allows them to avoid fines while they challenge a portion of the new law requiring them to provide the coverage.
Company attorneys object to offering such plans based on religious grounds.
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton in July granted the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and Mardel Christian bookstore, its sister company, a temporary exemption from a requirement that it provide insurance coverage for morning-after pills, similar emergency birth control methods and intrauterine devices.
Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services filed a notice in federal court this week saying it would appeal, and Heaton had given the government an Oct. 1 deadline.
Lawyers for the companies’ owners, the Green family, say following all provisions of PPACA would either violate their religious beliefs or cost them millions of dollars in fines. The Green family believes life begins at conception; emergency birth control methods and the IUD prevent fertilized eggs from implantation. The company’s insurance plans do offer 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care act.
Heaton last November rejected the companies’ request to block the birth-control mandate. He reconsidered his decision after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the companies were likely to prevail in the case. Heaton ruled in June that the company would not be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day for not offering the birth control methods.
A competing case, from the 3rd Circuit, is also at the Supreme Court. That one involves a company called Conestoga Wood, owned by a Mennonite family, and the appeals court in that case ruled the opposite way.