3rd Circuit creates split on health care law contraceptive mandate

A corporation is separate from its owners, the court reasoned

Though the tides were looking employer-friendly when Hobby Lobby got the 10th Circuit to rule that companies have religious rights, the 3rd Circuit on Thursday signaled that the battle over the contraceptive mandate is far from over.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes a provision that requires employers to provide insurance coverage to their employees for contraceptives. Several companies with religious owners have taken umbrage at that, some of them taking their umbrage all the way to the courts. The 3rd Circuit case was brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Mennonite Christian-owned cabinet maker which argued, much like Hobby Lobby did in the 10th Circuit, that the mandate violates the owners' beliefs.

While the 10th Circuit reasoned in the Hobby Lobby case that if the Supreme Court protects a corporation's political expression, it should protect its religious expression too, the 3rd Circuit in its 2-1 decision disagreed.

“We simply conclude that the law has long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself,” the court wrote. “A holding to the contrary—that a for-profit corporation can engage in religious exercise—would eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.”

And so the battle rages on.

Read more at Bloomberg.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of contraception lawsuits, see below:

Plan B to be sold over the counter, protected from generics for three years

10th Circuit: For-profit corporations have religious rights

2nd Circuit orders unrestricted sale of some emergency contraceptives

Federal Circuit invalidates Bayer’s Yaz patent

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