Hobby Lobby Wins Injunction Against HHS Contraception Mandate

Plaintiffs consider injunction a victory for religious freedom

Wikimedia Commons
July 22, 2013

The arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby won a preliminary injunction on Friday prohibiting the federal government from fining the business for not offering certain contraceptives that violate the owners’ religious convictions.

The ruling by a district court in Oklahoma follows a decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in June overruling the district court and declaring that Hobby Lobby is likely to succeed in its challenge of the law.

"We think the [Health and Human Services] mandate is endangered," said Lori Windham, a senior counsel at the Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby.

The Obama administration announced early in 2012 that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would require all businesses and most nonprofits to offer contraceptives as part of their required health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This announcement caused many religious groups who object to some or all forms of contraception to resist the requirement.

Hobby Lobby was the first non-Catholic business to sue over the requirements, following many Catholic and non-Catholic nonprofits who also sued to prevent the administration from fining them for following their religious convictions.

The administration quickly tried to find an accommodation for the religious nonprofits—although numerous attempts have failed to satisfy religious freedom advocates—but it refused to extend a similar exemption to for-profit businesses.

Neither HHS nor the Justice Department returned a request for comment.

The district court decided Friday that the public interest is best served by granting Hobby Lobby an injunction against the mandate and that the "balance of equities" tilts in Hobby Lobby’s favor, since the business would face millions in fines for not acquiescing to the mandate, Windham said.

Other businesses have won injunctions against the mandate as well. The 10th Circuit’s decision was the biggest victory thus far for the businesses, Windham said.

Hobby Lobby’s owners do not object to all forms of contraception. They only object to those that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

The administration requested that the case be suspended while they decide whether to appeal the 10th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court, Windham said. The government has until Oct. 1 to decide.

If the administration does not appeal or if the Supreme Court declines to hear the appeal, the case will continue in the district court, which will decide the case on the merits.

Windham said the 10th Circuit’s decision boded well for Hobby Lobby’s chances.

"These are good indications that we’ll receive a good outcome in the case," she said.

Other parts of Obamacare have sparked controversy recently.

The administration recently delayed the employer mandate—which requires that all businesses over a certain size offer health insurance—for a year as well as other verification requirements for the state-based health insurance exchanges.

These delays have caused congressional Republicans and healthcare experts to question the viability of the law’s various parts.