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Appeals Court Sides With Employers On Covering Birth Control

A federal appeals court has sided with the owners of a fruit and vegetable distributor who challenged part of the 2010 health care law requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control. Federal courts have split on the issue, which is the subject of dozens of similar cases.

According to the National Women's Law Center, "a total of 88 lawsuits have been filed" over the issue of contraceptive coverage. Of that number, 63 cases are still pending; the other 25 have been closed.

NPR's Julie Rovner reports for our Newscast unit:

"The case is one of several dozen working their way through the courts. Other appeals courts have found for both plaintiffs and the government, and the issue is considered almost certain to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"In this case a three-judge panel split over a suit filed by the produce firm Freshway Foods and its Catholic owners. It said the firm itself cannot exercise religious rights, but its owners, two brothers, can. This case now goes back to a lower court. Other cases are considered likely to get to the Supreme Court first."

In ruling in favor of business owners Francis and Philip M. Gilardi, the appeals court in Washington, D.C., found that they had faced "a Hobson's choice. They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong."

A Hobson's choice, we'll remind everyone, is a type of ultimatum that is offered in the guise of a free choice, in which only one option is truly available.

The court's opinion was written by Judge Janice Rogers Brown. In what seems to be another indicator of the contraception mandate's ability to divide opinion, the two other circuit judges in the case each wrote their own opinions as well, as they agreed neither with all of Brown's findings nor with all of each other's.

"The Obama administration and a Christian legal group called the Alliance Defending Freedom already have Supreme Court petitions pending in two different cases concerning the same issue," Reuters reports.

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