Supreme Court exempts nun group from Obamacare birth control clause (Update)

US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has granted a temporary reprieve to a group of nuns challenging a requirement of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law that health insurance they offer include birth control.

Sotomayor acted late New Year's Eve, just hours before major provisions of the Affordable Care Act law were to take effect.

Sotomayor gave the US government until early Friday morning to give the court its response in the matter.

Her order late Tuesday applied to the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Roman Catholic nonprofit groups that use a health plan called the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, according to the New York Times.

The provisions of the sweeping US health reform law entered into force on Wednesday, some four years after the bill was signed, following years of opposition from Republicans in Congress and from conservative groups.

The landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation was a bid by Obama to guarantee that uninsured Americans are afforded access to medical care, but opponents have objected strongly to various aspects of the law.

The birth control requirement has been one of the most controversial aspects of the US health law, and has received spirited pushback from religiously affiliated organizations.

The lawsuit by the nuns was one of many challenging the federal requirement for contraceptive coverage.

The US high court agreed in late November to hear several cases that could settle the dispute between the Obama administration and companies run by Christian conservatives over whether those businesses must pay for birth control if contraceptive coverage conflicts with the religious beliefs of the business owner.

The November announcement that the Supreme Court would hear the constitutional challenge to the birth control mandate in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., as well as another case, signaled a new phase of the political battle over the health care law.

A decision on the merits of that case by the full Supreme Court could have broader implications, the legal experts have said.

As a compromise, the Obama administration has said that women who work for nonprofit religious groups that oppose birth control could receive separate coverage not paid for by the employers.

But it refused to offer such assurances to secular businesses whose owners have religious objections to contraception.

That distinction has led to a separate group of lawsuits.

David Green, who founded the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Stores chain involved in one suit, said that business owners "should not have to choose between violating their beliefs and violating the law."

Since the ACA or "Obamacare", was passed in 2010, the legislation has survived multiple repeal attempts by Republican lawmakers, a US Supreme Court hearing, and a disastrous rollout of the website set up to assist the launch of the legislation.

Under the law, it is illegal for insurers to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions or to limit the level of annual reimbursements for essential services—practices in the past which had left some patients facing financial ruin.

It also now is mandatory for any US resident to enroll in a health care plan.

Administration officials reported this week that some 1.1 million people had enrolled in health plans using the federal website,, the main entry point for coverage in 36 states.

Nearly all the enrollments came in the last couple of weeks, as the January 1 deadline approached.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Supreme Court to take up birth control religion case

Nov 26, 2013

The US Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up a case involving a firm seeking to limit the availability of birth control to female employees enrolled in a company health plan on religious grounds.

Injunction granted in US birth control lawsuit

Dec 21, 2013

A U.S. judge granted an injunction Friday that prohibits the government from enforcing the federal health care law's requirement that insurance coverage include access to the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives ...

States file suit over Obama's birth control plan

Feb 24, 2012

Seven US states have filed a lawsuit challenging a requirement in President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law that religious organizations provide insurance covering birth control.

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 01, 2014
It is 2.1 million at last count and rapidly rising!

However, is it not so that the very concept of a pregnant nun is a kind of implausibility? Nuns should not need birth control as their faith is its own 'birth control'........of course an old well outside a French nunnery that archaeologists found to be filled to a depth of 14 feet with the bodies of unborn or hidden borne children seems to suggest that this ideal sometimes fails....

The insurance companies and the banks' cynical use of nuns as cats to deprive the American people of needed national health care with universal access will fail.