Federal Court Upholds Contraceptive Coverage


A federal court in Missouri has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the contraceptive coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act. 

The suit was thrown out by Judge Carol E. Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Sept. 29. Jackson’s decision in O’Brien v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the mandate does not infringe on the religious beliefs of Frank O’Brien, a devout Catholic who owns O’Brien Industrial Holdings in St. Louis.

“Frank O’Brien is not prevented from keeping the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as communion,” Jackson wrote. “Instead, plaintiffs remain free to exercise their religion, by not using contraceptives and by discouraging employees from using contraceptives.”

Jackson also said she “rejects the proposition that requiring indirect financial support of a practice, from which plaintiff himself abstains according to his religious principles, constitutes a substantial burden on plaintiff’s religious exercise.”

The decision noted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law designed to protect the religious liberty of individuals, “is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others.”