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Federal Court in Michigan Halts Enforcement of Contraception Mandate Against For-Profit Company

A federal district court in Michigan has entered an order temporarily halting the government's ability to enforce the women's health preventive-care mandate against a for-profit company on the basis that the mandate would violate the company's free-exercise of religion. As explained by the court:

"Plaintiffs argue that the HRSA Mandate, which forces them to choose between providing health insurance that includes contraception without cost-sharing or incurring a financial penalty, substantially burdens their free exercise of religion. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to prohibit the Government from enforcing the HRSA Mandate against them."

Weighing the relative risks to the government and the company in blocking enforcement of the mandate, the court observed:

"The harm in delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional must yield to the risk presented here of substantially infringing the sincere exercise of religious beliefs. The balance of harms tips strongly in Plaintiffs' favor.  A preliminary injunction is warranted."

This case and others like it (see here, here, and here) are of interest because they provide, or seek to provide, a targeted exemption for certain for-profit employers from the mandate, even though the government's regulations would exempt only non-profit organizations, and even then only those that are engaged directly in religious activity, not just guided by religious beliefs or principals. The issue sets up considerable tension at the intersection of religious freedom and women's health and could represent the ticket for PPACA's next trip to the Supreme Court.


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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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