U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor refused Hobby Lobby’s request Wednesday to block the federal healthcare law’s contraceptive mandate from going into effect for for-profit companies on Jan. 1. Businesses, regardless of their religious convictions, will have to begin offering contraceptives, including abortifacients, with their health insurance plans on New Year’s Day or face hefty fines.
The Christian retailer and its sister company Mardel Inc. is in the process of suing the federal government over the mandate’s infringement on their religious liberties.
In her opinion, Justice Sotomayor said the retailer failed to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies could continue their challenge to the mandate in the lower courts. Sotomayor's ruling represents the first time the high court has weighed in on the mandate.
Hobby Lobby officials say they must decide whether to compromise their beliefs or face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning next Tuesday if they ignore the law.
Attorneys for the government claim the drugs do not cause abortions and that the United States has a compelling interest in mandating insurance coverage for them.
In ruling against the companies last month, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton said churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the birth-control provisions but that “Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.”