RH Reality Check, By Jessica Mason Pieklo, May 20
A federal appeals court on Tuesday again rejected claims by the University of Notre Dame that the federal accommodation process to the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) substantially burdened the university’s religious rights.
That process allows the objecting employers to complete a form that notifies the federal government of their religious objection and triggers a process whereby the insurance company contracts directly with the people who want contraception coverage at no additional cost.
Under the accommodation process, groups like Notre Dame that claim a religious objection to the birth control benefit must simply notify the administration of their objection. The administration then takes on the task of coordinating coverage between insurance providers and those who want contraception coverage.
Notre Dame and other religiously affiliated nonprofits objected to this requirement, arguing that simply filling out the form to notify its insurance company, or other relevant third parties, violates its religious beliefs by making it complicit in a scheme it finds morally objectionable: providing contraception to university employees and students.
So far federal appeals courts in multiple jurisdictions have rejected those claims which, under most circumstances, would be the end of the road for the legal challenges to the birth control benefit.
Judge Richard Posner, writing for the majority, rejected the university’s claims that the Hobby Lobby decision means courts must take at face value claims of religious burden, stating “[a]lthough Notre Dame is the final arbiter of its religious beliefs, it is for the courts to determine whether the law actually forces Notre Dame to act in a way that would violate those beliefs.”