Bloomberg News

Contraception Coverage Rule Assailed by Catholic Businessman

March 15, 2012

A U.S. government mandate that businesses offer employees coverage for contraception through health-care insurance was challenged in court as unconstitutional by a St. Louis businessman.

Frank O’Brien is a practicing Catholic who believes life begins at conception and ends with death, according to the complaint that he and O’Brien Industrial Holdings LLC filed today in St. Louis.

“He cannot pay for and provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, abortion or related education and counseling without violating his religious beliefs,” O’Brien’s lawyers wrote in the complaint.

The contraception requirement is part of President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, intended to create almost-universal health-care insurance coverage.

While the mandate initially called on religious institutions and secular employers to pay for the coverage, the president last month said he would relieve religious groups of the responsibility by requiring their insurers to provide the coverage free of charge after encountering opposition to the rule.

‘First Amendment’

The attempted compromise has been criticized by church leaders and by members of the Republican Party as an attack upon the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom contained in the First Amendment.

“If Democrats no longer see the value in defending the First Amendment because they don’t think it’s politically expedient to do so, or because they want to protect the president, then Republicans will have to do it for them,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

O’Brien employs 87 people at his businesses, which mine clays and silicates, and manufacture products such as insulation and the clay used for baseball infields, according to the complaint and the corporate website.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on O’Brien’s lawsuit.

The case is O’Brien v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12-cv-476, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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