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Religious challenges to HHS contraceptive rules tossed

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(Bloomberg) — A plan for allowing religious groups to opt out of contraceptive coverage for employees mandated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides sufficient protection of religious freedom, a Washington appeals court ruled, throwing out a set of lawsuits challenging the accommodation.

Catholic and other religious groups argued that allowing them to refrain from paying for contraceptive services while still providing insured women with access to birth control through a separate coverage channel violates their beliefs.

HHS included the mandate in regulations it developed to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) preventive services package requirements.

See also: CMS drafts birth control mandate exemption process.

“We conclude that the challenged regulations do not impose a substantial burden on the plaintiff’s religious exercise” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, U.S. Circuit Judge Cornelia Pillard wrote for a three-judge panel.

“The court is wrong and we will not obey the mandate,” Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, one of the plaintiffs, said in an e-mailed statement.

The case is Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13-5368, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).


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