CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Roman Catholic organizations in Wyoming secured a court order Monday blocking, at least for now, a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act requiring them to take steps to allow hundreds of employees to secure contraception and abortion services.
The organizations had asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to review a Wyoming judge’s decision last month that they must comply with the law or face fines while a larger legal challenge to the federal health law is pending.
Two judges with the appellate court issued an injunction Monday, pending a possible later hearing on the lower court’s ruling.
It wasn’t clear if the federal government would seek such a hearing. Julie Saltman, a federal lawyer who represented the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declined comment Monday.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the Catholic groups are not required to provide contraception and abortion services for their more than 200 non-ministerial employees. However, the law would have required the groups to sign a certification that would allow those employees to seek those health insurance options through third-party providers.
Lawyers for the groups argued that it would violate their clients’ religious freedom to fill out a form that would trigger the third party insurance coverage.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Wyoming last month denied the groups’ request for a preliminary injunction, stating that the certification requirement did not place a substantial burden on free exercise of religion.
Dozens of church-based organizations across the country have sued over the contraception requirement in the health care law. Many say contraception, drugs that induce abortion and voluntarily sterilization all run contrary to their religious beliefs.
The Wyoming decision came hours after a divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. It was the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.
The justices’ 5-4 decision means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under the health insurance plans of objecting companies. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion that the ruling is limited and there are ways for the administration to ensure women get the birth control they want.
The Rev. Carl Gallinger, vicar general of the Cheyenne, Wyoming, diocese, said Monday that he viewed the Supreme Court decision as “good news and a positive development in our pending case.”
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