The crafts retailer has until Oct. 21 to file a response to a 251-page appeal filed by U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli and other government attorneys who want the high court to hear more about why the chain should or should not include contraceptives in its required healthcare coverage to employees.
Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based chain founded by David Green and his family, filed suit in September 2012, claiming that portions of the Affordable Care Act infringed on the Green family’s religious liberties by forcing it to pay for health procedures that cause “abortion.”
Lori Windham, an attorney for Hobby Lobby, said the lawsuit isn’t about funding employee healthcare. She said it’s about liberty.
“Does a family have to give up religious freedom to open a business in America?” Windham asked.
Windham is the senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal assistance organization in Washington, D.C.
The lawsuit contends the requirement that companies provide certain types of birth control as part of employee insurance packages infringes on the Greens’ constitutionally promised religious liberty because it requires them to cover certain emergency contraception they deem controversial.
“The Green family objects to covering contraception that induces abortion, like the ‘morning after pill,’” as well as the so-called “week after” pill, Windham said.
However, leading medical authorities like the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists define the beginning of pregnancy as implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. In that sense, emergency contraception can help reduce the need for abortion because pregnancy is prevented.
Regardless, some religious conservatives, including the Greens, disagree, saying these methods prevent fertilized eggs from implantation and therefore terminate pregnancy.
So the battle continues, and the Green family attorney pointed out that the Hobby Lobby company already covers many types of contraception, though it didn’t say which ones.
“Hobby Lobby’s plan currently covers 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptive methods,” Windham said.
“The HHS (federal Health and Human Services) mandate requires the family-owned business to provide insurance coverage for the ‘morning after pill’ and ‘week after pill’ contrary to their religious convictions or pay up to $1.3 million per day in fines,” she said.
The Green family already has received a temporary injunction that excuses them from paying the fines.
If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, oral arguments could begin in early spring, and a decision could be made as early as June 2014.