A federal court in Missouri issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the birth control benefit that would have required a for-profit dairy farming and cheese making business to ensure that employee insurance policies cover birth control methods approved by the FDA, including emergency contraceptives and copper IUDs, as well as related counseling for employees.
The lawsuit was brought by Charles N. Sharpe, founder and owner of Sharp Holdings. The company is also as a named plaintiff, as are two employees, Judi Diane Shaefer and Rita Joanne Wilson. As employees, Shaefer and Wilson pay a portion of the required health insurance premiums in the company’s self-insured plan and, according to the complaint, object to coverage for anything they believe to interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg.
In issuing the injunction the federal court appeared sympathetic to the argument that the mandate is unconstitutional because it impermissibly “punishes” some institutions (i.e. for-profit businesses) by providing preferential treatment to other institutions (i.e. religious institutions) by way of exemption from the law. But to find such an argument appealing, let alone persuasive, the federal court must essentially compare apples to oranges and assume for-profit, secular businesses should be treated the same from a regulatory perspective, as religious institutions, a fact totally lost in Magistrate Judge David Noce’s order.
The order provides immediate cover for Sharpe and his business, but the fight is not finished yet. The court will hear additional arguments in the matter on January 14th.
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