For the first time, a United States appeals court has ruled that the Government’s mandatory abortion pill provision violates the rights of religiously affiliated employers.
The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St Louis, Missouri, issued two rulings, upholding lower court decisions.
The move is at odds with all previous decisions by appeals courts, making it more likely that the Supreme Court will take up the issue.
Religiously affiliated employers are allowed to opt out of the abortion provision, but judges ruled that the Government’s process for opting out still violates their rights.
Last week, the court ruled in favour of two Christian schools, Dordt College in Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan.
The three-judge panel said: “We conclude that by coercing Dordt and Cornerstone to participate in the contraceptive mandate and accommodation process under threat of severe monetary penalty, the government has substantially burdened Dordt and Cornerstone’s exercise of religion”.
Seven other appeals courts have ruled the opposite, that faith based charities, colleges and hospitals are not substantially burdened by the provision.
The US Government’s mandatory abortion pill provision forces employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion drugs and contraception or face steep financial penalties.
Last month, the organisation behind the world’s largest pro-life rally won the right not to fund abortion for its employees.
The ruling was the first granted to an organisation because of its moral convictions rather than religious beliefs, according to its legal team.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented March for Life, hailed the decision as a victory for common sense.
“Pro-life organizations should not be forced into betraying the very values they were established to advance”.
“This is especially true of March for Life, which was founded to uphold life, not to assist in taking it. The Government has no right to demand that organizations provide health insurance plan options that explicitly contradict their mission.”
In July, Tyndale House Publishers, the world’s largest privately owned publisher of Christian material, also won its case against the abortion pill mandate.