Birth control mandate faces lawsuit, state challenge

The Obama administration is facing another round of legal battles over the reform law's mandate that employers provide birth control, the morning-after pill and other preventive healthcare services for women.

First, retail chain Hobby Lobby, which was founded by evangelical Christians, filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, claiming the mandate requiring employers to include the morning-after pill and similar drugs in their health plans is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, alleges the mandate forces Hobby Lobby owners "to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits," the Associated Press reported.

"These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith," David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores, said in a call with reporters. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."

Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the mandate from being enforced. If the retailer doesn't provide coverage of the morning-after pill in health plans available to its 13,240 employees by Jan. 1, it would face a $1.3 million penalty each year, reported Reuters.

The very next day, Missouri lawmakers protected a newly passed law that allows employers and insurers to refuse coverage of birth control and other contraceptives. The bill, S.B. 749, exempts employers and insurers from providing coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization if those benefits conflict with religious beliefs or moral convictions, LifeHealthPro reported.

Although Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, both the state House and Senate agreed to override that veto on Wednesday, essentially setting the stage for a federal court battle against the Obama administration.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article
- see the Associated Press article
- read the LifeHealthPro article
- check out the Missouri bill