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Hobby Lobby must cover morning-after pill, judge rules

The arts and crafts store argued that including emergency contraceptives in its health care plan would violate the owners’ religious beliefs

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. has until Jan. 1 to include emergency contraceptives in its health care plan, after a federal judge rejected the company’s efforts to block part of President Obama’s health care law.

The Oklahoma-based arts and crafts store filed suit in September, arguing that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) violates its religious beliefs by requiring employers to cover emergency contraception such as the morning-after  and week-after pills.

The company’s Christian owners say that these pills, which prevent ovulation or fertilization, are a form of abortion, as they can prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterine wall. Failure to comply with the PPACA’s mandate could cost the company $1.3 million in fines per day, according to Hobby Lobby’s original request for a preliminary injunction.

On Monday, however, Judge Joe Heaton denied the company’s request, ruling that, as a secular organization, the company does not qualify for an exemption from the health care law. Although Heaton noted that “the court [was] not unsympathetic” to Hobby Lobby’s dilemma, he ultimately ruled that "plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”

Hobby Lobby’s lawyers say the company plans to appeal the verdict, according to the Associated Press.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of the health care law, see:

Hobby Lobby sues not to cover morning-after pill

Obamacare faces another lawsuit over contraception coverage

Employers must choose to pay or play under the Affordable Care Act

Sears, Darden Restaurants announce defined-contribution programs for employee health benefits


Alanna Byrne

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