Sotomayor's Contraceptive Coverage Exemption

Thursday, January 02, 2014

On New Years Eve, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary exemption to the contraception coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act for a elder care facility run by a group of nuns in Colorado, and related organizations. Emily Bazelon, senior editor and court watcher at Slate, explains this latest challenge to the contraception mandate and what it might mean for the law.


Emily Bazelon

Comments [24]

Bob from Westchester, NY

A nursing home serving poor people likely receives close to 100% of its revenue from Social Security and Medicaid payments for care of its indigent residents. So the funds used to pay for employees' health insurance come primarily from the government, not from the religious order or from the Catholic diocese. So why should these funds be sacrosanct - just because a nun signs the checks? What happened to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's"?

Jan. 02 2014 05:25 PM
Olivia from Bronx, NY

Beyond wanting to find out who is funding this appeal for the Sisters of Charity I have some questions that their case raises in my mind: they are taking the position that they are against contraception - so is it okay if an employee pays for the contraception out of her own pocket? Or do they want their employees to not use contraception - in which case do they require employees to swear that they don't use, or will not use, contraception while employed by this organization? The same question goes to all the other not-for-profit and for-profit companies. I think these questions should be put to them. No part of the ACA in any way forces individuals to get medication or care they don't want. If one is not using and is against contraception then that person certainly won't put in a claim. I don't understand who's rights are being trampled with the current law. None that I can tell. Is it legal to make personal/religious beliefs a litmus test for employment?

Jan. 02 2014 03:35 PM
John A

Yeah, let's just cut coverage for Viagra and eliminate one major source for yammering on these boards.
Brahmin, thank-you.

Jan. 02 2014 12:05 PM
JoJo from Ardsley

Why am I not surprised - women always getting the short end of the stick, particularly in the realm of healthcare. Notice there's never a problem with males getting their ED (erection dysfunction) meds covered!

Jan. 02 2014 11:59 AM

Brahman: Pregnancy is 100% avoidable? So, you're promoting celibacy for all? Abstinence as the solution for married couples who wish to engage in family planning? Or are you with Limbaugh in thinking that birth control is like viagra -- somehow encourages uncontrolled sexual activity. Why do we have no problem with men having easy access to viagra -- covered by insurance! -- but heaven forbid women should have access to birth control. It is astonishing that 60 years after the introduction of birth control, it's still controversial -- considering that it's among the most widely used drugs.

Jan. 02 2014 11:58 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey


"Love how the liberal media decides that when the Duck Dynasty guy says something, he can be fired..."

Calm down, Shawn. A&E fired the Duck Dynasty guy. The media just reported what he said.

@Rosie from New York, NY

"Who exactly needs birth control at an elder care facility run by nuns, what am I missing here??"

errr...The people that work there?

For the 'wingers who like to go around quoting Nancy P's statement about "...we have to pass the law before we know what's in it"...This is precisely what the then- and future- Speaker of the House meant. Parts of the law will need to be adjudicated and that takes time.

Jan. 02 2014 11:51 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ Rosie from New York, NY: Wait a minute....Who exactly needs birth control at an elder care facility run by nuns, what am I missing here??

What you're missing is that while the facility may be "run by nuns," that does not necessarily mean that ALL the employees are nuns. They may have custodial, security, bookkeeping positions that are held by people other than nuns and if they are going to provide health insurance for them (if they run and elder care facility, they sure as h..l know how important health insurance and good medical care are!), then they should provide complete health insurance. People will use whatever they need and that's that.

Jan. 02 2014 11:50 AM

These "religious exemptions"show all the more reason that we should get employers out of providing health care and move ahead to a more "single payer" system. ...No employers between doctors and their patients!

Jan. 02 2014 11:47 AM

Do all of these religious organizations that think they should be exempt from certain provisions of the affordable care act receive tax exempt donations? Are they themselves tax exempt? Should they be if they are not willing to follow the laws that everyone else are subject to?

Jan. 02 2014 11:47 AM
Nick from UWS

Since when do we argue questions of religion in US Courts? What happened to separation of church and state? Why is taxpayer money wasted on this mental masturbation?

Jan. 02 2014 11:47 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I think that as abortion should be available to all women who need or want it, it should be available for all women covered by health insurance. Despite the preference of various religious groups, it is none of their business how their employees use their health insurance (remember HIPAA?). Health insurance is to be used for people's health and if good health includes contraception, possible abortion, possibly even vasectomy, as well as dental care, and whole body care, and various types of alternative medicine, then those things should be covered.

Question: Does a religious group or entity have the right to dictate to its employees? Or, could they limit their employees only to people who 100% agree with their mandate? Or would that be discrimination? Why should there be a difference between for-profit and not-for-profit businesses in employment and benefits?

Jan. 02 2014 11:46 AM
Robert from NYC

Well maybe in this religious disputed case maybe the law should be changed that the US Govt kicks in in the case of contraceptive health. Maybe Medicare should cover that where religious employers don't want to pay. Of course, the single payer option would have covered all of this.

Jan. 02 2014 11:46 AM
Nick from UWS

Since when do we argue questions of religion in US Courts? What happened to separation of church and state? Why is taxpayer money wasted on this mental masturbation?

Jan. 02 2014 11:46 AM

Brahman: remember that in Arizona, pregnancy begins two weeks before contraception. If I drive through this state, I can't possibly prevent that condition!

Sadly women always seem to get the shaft when it comes to "religious freedom." Ity's chilling to think that even within 1-2 miles from my home, there are still segregated buses. Someday we'll look back and shake our heads that religious tenets took precedence over sex/gender equality.

Jan. 02 2014 11:46 AM
Cynthia Herzegovitch from East Harlem - work

But it has nothing to do with who they serve its who they HIRE. And especially in this job climate saying that someone can go work someplace else is ridiculous.

Jan. 02 2014 11:44 AM

Love how the liberal media decides that when the Duck Dynasty guy says something, he can be fired. But if the Little Sisters of the Poor order would want to fire someone for asking for contraception, well women's rights come first, and they are crazy for denying them.

You can't have it both ways Liberals!

Jan. 02 2014 11:43 AM
Nick from UWS

God, the absurd amount of time that humans spend twisting themselves in knots trying to justify, understand and accommodate the self-created idiocy and delusional demands of religion. Want to resolve this? Start thinking rationally.

Jan. 02 2014 11:43 AM
Rosie from New York, NY

Wait a minute....Who exactly needs birth control at an elder care facility run by nuns, what am I missing here??

Jan. 02 2014 11:41 AM
Adam from NJ

How is this case different from the Hobby Lobby case?

Jan. 02 2014 11:41 AM
John from Fanwood

You should make the distinction that a stay is not a decision, but a delay in making a decision. Justice Sotomayor's ruling will probably bump the case to the Supreme Court.

Congrats Brian on the great profile in the NY Times the other day!

Jan. 02 2014 11:40 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey


Abortions are sometimes already occasionally medically necessary. Abortion on demand - as a method of family planning - regardless of who pays for it, would become MORE likely if religious orgs are allowed to 'opt out' of contraceptive coverage for their employees.

Do the math.

Jan. 02 2014 11:40 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Insurance is pooled money, Brahman, and you don't get to pick where your dollars go. You don't get to call your auto insurance provider and say, "I don't want any of my premiums paying for accidents involving SUVs." You don't get to call your life insurance providers and say, "I don't want any of my dollars paying out policies on people who died in house fires." And you do not get to call your health insurance provider and say, "I don't want my dollars paying for birth control pills for slutty women." If you don't like what your insurer covers for other people, then get another insurer that doesn't make your conscience hurt so much.

Frankly I don't want my money covering your non-existent mental anguish about contraception and abortion, as if either makes any difference to your life personally, but there's nothing I can do about that.

Jan. 02 2014 11:39 AM
Brahman from Manhattan

Pregnancy is a condition that is already 100% behaviorally avoidable. Should others be paying into a pool of funds for a drug that is entirely unnecessary in terms of 'preventing' pregnancy.
Preventative medicine now has a new definition? Soon, abortion will be considered as such. Watch.

Jan. 02 2014 11:30 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

I think granting the temporary stay and hearing argument about it is appropriate. The legal question of whether there is a religious exclusion from the mandates of the new insurance law need to be answered clearly and completely. In my opinion, there are none. Religious belief cannot constrain the universe of medical outcomes and to exclude their premiums for contraception services is an act of faith-based denial. As nuns, they probably don't use obstetric services either yet premiums for those services should be collected. An organization cannot define the beliefs and behaviors for its lay or secular employees. To do so would be as outrageous as exempting the Christian Science Monitor from having to buy complete insurance plans for its reporters.

I welcome the argument but the organization has a losing argument.

Jan. 02 2014 10:59 AM

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