A Contraceptive Calamity in Colorado


Next Wednesday, against the Obama administration’s will, a political firestorm will be unleashed: the provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that forces businesses to pay for employees’ contraceptives without a co-pay goes into effect. You may remember this little ticking time bomb at the beginning of the fiscal year; it had the Catholic Church up in arms, forcing the Obama administration to enforce an exclusionary rule that allowed religious establishments to opt out of the provision.

Well, yesterday, one of those angry businesses with a Catholic flair to it took the provision to court… and won (kinda). Hercules Industries, the plaintiff in the case known as Hercules v. Sebelius, argued that the provision infringed upon the business’s right to freely exercise their religious beliefs. The exclusionary rule mentioned above only allows establishments that primarily serve members of their faith a one-year break but Hercules, an air conditioning company owned by siblings who are against birth control, doesn’t fall under that category. We wonder why.
The U.S. District Court for Colorado ordered a three-month injunction to the business, halting the provision from taking effect next week. Instead, the court will revisit the law in its legal format; in other words, an enormous headache for the folks behind Obamacare.
However, keep in mind that this court ruling, in its simplest form, strictly applies to the health of Hercules Industries. The employees’ payments for birth control relies on the judge’s call. But, the injunction now allows for a pathway to complete nullification of the provision all together.
What is the Obama administration to do?
At this point, the judge overseeing this puppy, Carter appointee John L. Kane, needs to decide if the preventative care mandate poses a “substantial burden” on one’s religious beliefs. In the decision, he wrote, “On balance, the threatened harm to plaintiffs, impingement of their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and the concomitant public interest in that right strongly favor the entry of injunctive relief.”
In legalese, this ‘injunctive relief’ can technically be stopped by the White House: Obama could ask the District Court to halt the three-month break, a common move that is usually favored by federal judges. But, that could be an explosive move just months before an election.
Or, the President could do nothing and put its faith in the judge’s decision. Unless Kane rules against the Obama administration and strikes down the provision. In electoral terms, that would be Romney’s wet dream, especially coming from a man who said that the decision in Colorado handed “freedom of conscience” an “important victory.”
Regardless, we have not seen the last of this hotbed issue. The Colorado decision has dug back up the controversy from a few months ago; let’s just see if the electorate, who is reeling from this tepid economic growth and shitty unemployment numbers, actually cares about the Pill enough.