A group of Christian schools wants the Supreme Court to strike down an Obamacare mandate that they provide health plans that enable access to abortion-inducing pills, the latest religious nonprofits to challenge the law's mandate.
The group of four universities petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday after a lower appeals court upheld the mandate earlier this month. The universities are Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University and Mid-America Christian University.
"The government should not force faith-based organizations to be involved in providing abortion pills to their employees or students," said Gregory S. Baylor. Baylor is senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the schools.
The petition is the latest from several religious nonprofits objecting to an accommodation in the healthcare law for birth control and the abortion drugs.
Under the accommodation, the nonprofits' health plans must include coverage for such products. The catch is that the nonprofits don't have to pay for that coverage, which is then paid for by the insurer or third party.
The religious universities would rather get an exemption to the coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. An exemption means that the people covered under the universities' health plans wouldn't get any access under their insurance.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the accommodation on July 14. The court ruled that it found the accommodation did not "substantially burden" the schools' religious exercise or infringe their First Amendment rights.
The schools disagree.
In their petition before the Supreme Court, the universities argue the accommodation requires universities to be involved in providing abortion-inducing drugs in several ways.
For instance, they have to tell the government who their insurers or third-party administrators are so the government can provide the drugs or devices on the university's behalf, the Alliance Defending Freedom said.
The universities also have to alter their health plans to allow for the provision of such drugs and devices, the group added.
The accommodation came about after the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that a for-profit company could object to providing birth control under religious grounds. Obamacare requires health plans to provide coverage of birth control and other preventive health measures.
The four universities aren't the only ones challenging the accommodation. The 10th Circuit's decision affected several businesses run by the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged run by Catholic nuns. The Little Sisters of the Poor also have appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court's decision.
It also affected appeals from several religious organizations such as GuideStone Financial Resources, which provides retirement and life insurance to Baptist ministers.
The Supreme Court will render a decision on whether to hear the cases in the fall.