Despite Sotomayor Ruling, Hobby Lobby Won’t Comply With Abortifacient Mandate

The Christian-owned business faces fines of up to $1.3 million per day after Jan. 1 if it refuses to provide abortion-inducing drugs in its company health-insurance plan.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (photo: Wikipedia)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is an updated version of the Dec 27 article “Justice Sotomayor Rejects Hobby Lobby’s Request for Mandate Relief”

WASHINGTON — The Christian-owned business Hobby Lobby has indicated it will not comply with the federal abortifacient mandate, despite the threat of massive fines of up to $1.3 million per day after Jan. 1 for non-compliance.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request that the federal government temporarily halt enforcement of the federal abortifacient mandate against the Christian-owned business Hobby Lobby, The Associated Press reported Dec. 27.

The Green family, owners of the Oklahoma-based retail chain Hobby Lobby, does not object to providing contraceptives through the company’s health-insurance plan. But the company has filed a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that abortifacient drugs also be funded, on the grounds that involvement in abortions is a violation of the Greens’ religious beliefs.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby as well as a number of other organizations and groups that have filed lawsuits against the mandate, said in a statement posted on its website following Sotomayor’s decision that the company would not provide abortifacient drugs in its health-insurance plan.

“Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the 10th Circuit. The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund. “It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the 10th Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.”

In her Dec. 26 decision denying the request from Hobby Lobby and a related company, Mardel Inc., Justice Sotomayor ruled the companies do not meet the legal standard for preventing enforcement of the mandate while their lawsuit is before the courts, The Associated Press reported.

Hobby Lobby sought relief from enforcement of the mandate because, as of Jan. 1, the company will face potential fines of $1.3 million per day if it declines to provide coverage of the so-called “morning after” and “week after” abortifacient drugs in its health insurance plan.

Hobby Lobby appealed to the Supreme Court after the 10th Circuit Court denied its request for relief from enforcement of the abortifacient mandate Dec. 20. The circuit court rejected the motion on the grounds that the religious burden to the Green family was “indirect and attenuated.”

While religious nonprofits are not required to comply with the mandate until Aug. 1, 2013, while the Obama administration works out the details of changes it has promised to make to the mandate to address their religious objections, other religious employers were required to begin providing co-pay-free contraceptives and related services by August 2012, or whenever they subsequently updated their health plans.


‘Government Coercion’

The Becket Fund said in a Dec. 20 press release that “the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the ‘morning-after’ and ‘week-after’ pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.”

Said the Becket Fund, “The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.”

According to the Becket Fund, there are now 42 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit, according to the Becket Fund. It is also the only non-Catholic business to do so.

Catholic plaintiffs represented by the Becket Fund include Belmont Abbey College, EWTN and Ave Maria University.

Unlike Hobby Lobby, Catholic opponents of the mandate argue that the federal contraceptive mandate, as well as the mandate to provide abortifacient drugs, constitutes a violation of their religious beliefs.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil” (2370).