The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not rule in a major case on access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
Professor Lumen “Lou” Mulligan is the Director of the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy.
“The challenge that was being heard by the Supreme Court in this case was whether groups that offer health insurance, but have a religiously-based objection to contraception can opt out of the procedures under the Affordable Care Act,” Mulligan said. “The way the regulations are written right now, if an organization has a religious objection to any type of association with contraception, they need not purchase any type of health insurance that covers contraception. What they need to do, though, is notify either the insurance company or the Federal government, noting that they have an objection.”
The challenge was that groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor believe that even the notification that then would allow the insurance company to offer contraception would make them complicit in what they consider to be sin.
The Supreme Court asked the parties on both sides if they could brief the case again and then find another solution to the problem, like providing the contraception without requiring the notification.
According to Mulligan both sides said, “We could still make sure that all employees have access to health insurance that includes contraception, and at the same time, we could probably work this out in a way that employers do not need to give that notice, if it is that notice that is the objection.”
Mulligan said that today’s decision is relatively uncommon, but not unheard of.
“In the order that the Supreme Court issued today, they list about five to six different instances where exactly this type of thing has happened.”
Mulligan said that the Court may have worked a little more quickly than they normally would, given the nature of the case.
“In a matter that’s especially high-profile and of national importance like the ACA, they might take a case perhaps before every little side point has been worked out. I think that’s what happened here.”
The Supreme Court was considering the fate of four different decisions from the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, 10th and D.C. Circuits. The court vacated all those judgments.