Overview of the Lawsuits Challenging the Affordable Care Act’s No Cost-Sharing Contraceptive Coverage Benefit
96 lawsuits have been filed in federal court challenging the Affordable Care Act’s no cost-sharing birth control coverage benefit. 25 cases are closed; 65 cases are currently pending. Closed cases have been highlighted grey in the chart. For-profit companies are among those who are pushing for the courts to allow bosses to make women’s reproductive health decisions. They have brought challenges to the benefit under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment.
Possible Supreme Court review:
- On November 26, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider whether to review any (or all) of 3 for-profit cases:
- Hobby Lobby (10th Circuit). The federal government has asked the Supreme Court for review, and Hobby Lobby, a nationwide crafts store chain, has agreed that the Court should hear the case.
- Conestoga (3rd Circuit) and Autocam (6th Circuit). Conestoga, a manufacturer of wood cabinet and specialty products, and Autocam, a manufacturer of parts for the transportation and medical industries, have each asked the Court for review.
- The government has urged the Court to postpone review of Autocam and Conestoga until after deciding Hobby Lobby. This is because Hobby Lobby reaches all of the questions at issue in the cases. Specifically, Hobby Lobby addresses the threshold question of whether a corporation is a “person” capable of religious exercise under RFRA, and also whether the birth control coverage benefit substantially burdens religious exercise; whether the benefit is justified by compelling government interests; and whether the benefit is the least restrictive means of furthering those interests. Conestoga and Autocam only reach the questions of whether a corporation is a “person” under RFRA and whether the religious exercise of the companies’ owners is affected by the birth control coverage requirement.
- In addition, on November 26, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider whether to review a non-profit case. Liberty University has asked the Supreme Court to hear its challenge to the individual and employer responsibility provisions of the health care law, which it claims include the birth control coverage requirement.
- Two other for-profit cases have also been appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Court could also consider whether to review them at a later date:
- Eden Foods (6th Circuit), a natural and organic food company.
- Gilardi (D.C. Circuit). Despite a victory in the D.C. Circuit, the for-profit companies, Freshway Foods (a fresh produce processing and packing company) and Freshway Logistics (a trucking company that transports refrigerated products) are asking the Supreme Court to review the part of the D.C. Circuit’s decision that held that a for-profit corporation is not a “person” capable of religious exercise.
Cases brought by for-profits:
- 46 of the cases have been filed by for-profit companies, ranging from a mining company to a crafts store chain to an HVAC company. One case was even brought by a business owner who currently has no employees. Two – Geneva College and Weingartz – also include non-profit plaintiffs. 44 for-profit cases are pending.
- Status of circuit courts of appeals decisions:
- Two circuit courts of appeals, the 3rd Circuit in Conestoga and the 6th Circuit in Autocam and Eden Foods, rejected the RFRA claims of the for-profit companies and their owners. The courts held that a for-profit corporation is not a “person” capable of religious exercise under RFRA and that the owners’ personal religious exercise is not affected by the birth control coverage requirement.
- Three circuit courts of appeals, the D.C. Circuit (Gilardi), 7th Circuit (in the consolidated Korte and Grote cases), and 10th Circuit (Hobby Lobby) have granted relief, allowing the companies to refuse to cover birth control in their employees’ health insurance plans.
Cases brought by non-profits:
- 48 cases have been brought by non-profit organizations. Six (6) cases were withdrawn by the plaintiffs and 16 cases were dismissed and those decisions were not appealed, so 26 of the non-profit cases are pending.
- For the most part, courts have dismissed the non-profit cases as not being ripe or because plaintiffs lack standing. This is because non-profits with religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage were given a delay in implementing the benefit and the Administration was undertaking rulemaking on an “accommodation” for non-profit organizations with religious objections to providing the benefit. The Administration finalized its rule on June 28 – so far, 18 non-profit organizations have said that they are not satisfied with the accommodation and intend to proceed with their lawsuits or have re-filed lawsuits that had been dismissed.
Cases brought by others:
- 2 cases have been brought by plaintiffs that are neither for-profit companies nor non-profit organizations.
- Wieland was brought by Missouri State Representative Paul Wieland, a member of the Missouri House of Representatives. This is the first challenge to the contraceptive coverage benefit by an employee who receives insurance coverage through an employer that is complying with the requirement. A Missouri district court dismissed the case because Representative Wieland did not have standing to bring the case.
- State of Nebraska was brought by officials representing the states of Nebraska, South Carolina, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Oklahoma. Following the government’s rulemaking on the accommodation, the plaintiffs asked the 8th Circuit to dismiss their case, which the court did.