The United States Supreme Court has approved an injunction for Wheaton College, which is a Christian non-profit college in Illinois, to opt for the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate’s accommodation scheme.
According to the ACA contraception mandate, companies with 50 or more employees have to provide contraceptive coverage and similar services to its employees free of cost. However, certain religious bodies are completely exempt from this mandate, which was passed by the Obama administration in 2010.
The Department of Health and Human Services, too, offers an accommodation scheme for some other non-profits that are not eligible for a complete exemption, but still oppose the idea of providing contraception and similar services on religious grounds. These non-profits include colleges, universities, charities and hospitals; the HHS accommodation scheme allows such bodies to satisfy the contraception mandate by employing an insurer who will offer stand-alone contraceptive coverage free of cost to either the company or its employees.
To avail themselves of this accommodation scheme, the eligible body must fill up a form informing the government that it opposes the mandate on religious grounds and would prefer to opt for the accommodation scheme instead. According to Wheaton College, even filling in the form violates its religious beliefs, as doing so would mean it complies with some part of the contraceptive service. The Supreme Court agreed with Wheaton College’s argument, saying if the college has already informed the government that it is eligible for the scheme, there is in fact no need for it to fill in a form.
In June, the Supreme Court quashed the contraception mandate under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as applied to profit oriented, closely held corporations. Many non-profits from across the United States have challenged the legality of the accommodation scheme under the RFRA as well as the First Amendment. While some plaintiffs have managed to acquire temporary injunctions against the scheme, others have not succeeded in doing the same.
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