The mandate for certain employers to provide contraceptive care as part of their employees' benefit plans established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and pertinent regulations has been controversial and highly litigated since its passage in 2010. One party to this litigation, the Little Sisters of the Poor, finds the contraceptive care mandate to be in conflict with their fundamental religious beliefs. The Little Sisters also find PPACA's exceptions to the contraceptive care mandate for religious nonprofits to be inadequate in preventing the government from requiring the Little Sisters to violate their beliefs. Currently, the Little Sisters are waiting for the Supreme Court to hear their appeal. When analyzing the Little Sisters' claim under the standard established by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court should find that the contraceptive care mandate constitutes an impermissible undue burden on the Little Sisters' constitutional right to freely exercise their religion. Even if the Court deciding these and similar cases would not find for the Little Sisters, it should consider the potentially damaging consequences of the government's position regarding PPACA. The government's enforcement of certain provisions of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), specifically the contraceptive care mandate, is in direct conflict with other ERISA provisions. This enforcement is likely to have harmful effects on the regulation of "church plans" under ERISA and the broader legal landscape of employee benefit plans.
Samantha T. Ford,
Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Sebelius: Ramifications for Church Plans and Religious Nonprofits,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol87/iss2/5