Supreme Court Exempts Religious Nonprofits From Contraception Mandate Paperwork During Appeal

A long-awaited order from the court for several groups seeking to stop the provision from going into effect.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court extended an injunction in place since Dec. 31 preventing several religious nonprofit organizations from needing to fill out paperwork in order to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

The case, brought by a group of Catholic nuns, challenges the constitutionality of a federal requirement that religious nonprofits with religious objections to the contraception mandate fill out what the Justice Department described in court filings as a “self-certification.”

In order to receive the benefits of the injunction, the Friday court order detailed, however, that applicants must “inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services.”

As University of California–Irvine law professor Rick Hasen wrote, “So what looks like a victory against having to do a symbolic act may really be a defeat in having to do the nearly identical symbolic act.” Gabriel Malor, however, countered that “the Supreme Court order specifically says they do not have to fill out or provide [the self-certification] to their third-party administrator,” which is the step that “trigger[s]” the possibility of the contraception coverage objected to by Little Sisters.

that the removal of the requirement that copies of the original certification be sent to third-party administrators represented the so-called “victory” sought by Little Sisters.

The unsigned order of the court “should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits” of the case, currently on appeal before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, she referred the request to the entire court. She had issued a temporary injunction on Dec. 31 while considering the nuns’ request for an injunction during the appeal. There were no filed dissents to the continued injunction.

[This article was updated with commentary on the impact of the decision.]

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