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Obama administration backs out of appeal over new contraceptive mandate (+video)

Government lawyers give up their challenge to a temporary injunction in a Bible publisher's lawsuit and will battle the issue in another pending case at the appeals court.

By Staff writer / May 6, 2013

President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius leave the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, after the president announced the revamp of his contraception policy requiring religious institutions to fully pay for birth control, February 2012.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP / File

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A federal appeals court in Washington has granted a request by the Obama administration to back out of an appeal involving a publisher of Bibles who is refusing for religious reasons to provide contraceptives to his employees under the president’s new health-care mandate.

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Mark Taylor and Tyndale House Publishers sued the Obama administration on grounds that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate concerning provision of contraceptives violates the publisher’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

The ACA requires that employers provide cost-free contraception for their workers – including the so-called morning after pill, which some critics say is an abortion-inducing drug.

Fifty-nine lawsuits on behalf of nearly 200 plaintiffs have been filed by individuals and companies across the nation charging that the new health-care mandate violates basic tenants of religious liberty and conscience.

The dispute is developing into a major showdown pitting the scope of religious freedom against government power to regulate conduct of the faithful.

The plaintiffs are asking the courts to block the Obamacare contraception mandate. Many of the cases are reaching the appellate level where judges in the Tenth, Sixth, and Third Circuits have denied requests for temporary injunctions. Judges in the Seventh, Eighth, and District of Columbia Circuits have granted temporary injunctions.

The Tyndale House case arrived at the District of Columbia Circuit after a federal judge in Washington last fall issued an injunction blocking the Obama administration from enforcing the contraception mandate against the Bible publisher and his company.

Administration lawyers had argued that for-profit companies can’t claim religious rights. Even if they could, government lawyers said, the decision whether to use contraceptives belongs to employees, not the employer.

The administration also argued that any burden on religious views would be outweighed by a more important government objective: “improving the health of women and children, and equalizing the provision of preventive care for women and men so women who choose to do so can be part of the workforce on an equal playing field with men.”

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