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Judges weigh religious exemption for health law

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court is considering whether for-profit businesses can be exempted from a contraceptive mandate because of the owners’ religious views.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) already has exempted houses of worship from the requirement, but two brothers who own businesses in Ohio argue they shouldn’t have to comply.

The brothers, Francis and Philip M. Gilardi, say the requirement would force them to violate their Roman Catholic religious beliefs and moral values by providing contraceptives such as the Plan B pill for their employees.

At a hearing at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, Judge Harry T. Edwards was skeptical about the Gilardis’ argument. He said sometimes religious freedom has to yield to the greater good.

The other two judges on the panel didn’t indicate how they are leaning in the argument.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires individual and group plans to cover a basic package of preventive services without imposing any out-of-pocket costs on the patients. HHS has ruled that the package of preventive services must include coverage for birth control products and services.

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