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Anti-abortion group wins constitutional challenge to HHS preventive services requirement

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken an unconstitutional approach to offering exemptions to its birth control benefits mandate, a federal judge in Washington ruled Monday.

HHS lets employers with religious objections to contraceptive services get an exemption from the mandate.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled Monday that HHS cannot provide an exemption from the mandate for religious nonprofit organizations without making an exemption available for nonreligious nonprofit organizations that hold similar views, Zoe Tillman writes in an article about the ruling for the Legal Times.

Leon sided with March for a Life, a nonreligious group that sued HHS over the mandate exemption.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires non-grandfathered group health plans to provide coverage for a basic package of preventive services without imposing cost-sharing requirements on the patients. 

PPACA gave the HHS secretary the authority to decide what the package should include. Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided that the package should include contraceptive products and services.

See also: Religious Group Employers Required to Offer Contraceptive Coverage

HHS created an exemption for houses of worship, and a partial exemption for other nonprofit religious employers. The U.S. Supreme Court later required HHS to offer an exemption to closely held private employers. Suits over exemption process details are now making their way through the federal courts.

See also: 

Court: Religious groups must comply with contraception opt-out rule 

Supreme Court pans HHS birth control option for religious employers

To read Tillman’s article about March for Life case, click here.