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Businessman takes on federal health care contraceptive provision

A federal court is scheduled today, to take up one Missouri businessesman’s challenge to a recently enacted provision of the federal health law. The provision requires that most employee-health plans include no-cost coverage of contraceptives. But the rule has faced backlash from several businesses and lawmakers around the region. 

Sharpe Holdings is a dairy company near St. Louis that last month, got a restraining order against the so called contraceptive mandate under the federal health law. The rule requires that employers provide birth control coverage to insured workers, unless the company is a religious group.

Tim Belz is Sharpe Holding’s lawyer: “Nobody has much trouble understanding that nonprofit religious organizations would have claims that would be founded on the first amendment, freedom of religion," he says. "But a for-profit company can be religious, too."

Belz argued that Sharpe is one of them, and that the owner has religious objections to covering certain kinds of contraceptives. A judge has yet to make a final decision on the case, but a preliminary hearing is set for later today. Sharpe is one of a handful of Missouri businesses and several more nationwide, challenging this new coverage requirement. In Missouri, this all comes amid a recent court ruling that blocked a new state law requiring insurers to exclude birth control coverage if it were to go against the religious beliefs of an employer. A hearing on that case is slated for next week.

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