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Despite Court Decision, State of Contraceptive Mandate Unclear for Non-Profits

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that closely-held companies like Hobby Lobby can refuse to cover the cost of contraceptives for religious reasons.

The ruling has major implications for private companies that do not want to fall in line with the Affordable Care Act, and it could indicate whether nonprofit religious institutions including the University of Notre Dame will be required to comply with the law.

In the Supreme Court majority opinion, justices say the Health and Human Services department is  not providing businesses with the quote "least restrictive" means of providing the health service that would help them avoid violating their religious beliefs.

The court goes on to say that the government has already developed a less restrictive plan--the one it's offering to religious nonprofits like Notre Dame.

Under that exemption, the organization can provide a form to the insurance companies stating their opposition to providing contraceptives and instead of billing the university, the insurance companies will bill the federal government directly for that cost.

IU Maurer School of Law Professor Daniel Conkle says that suggests the alternative the government is giving to Notre Dame is ok.

“Conversely I need to emphasize that the Supreme Court as is customary explicitly states ‘we are not reaching that issue,’” Conkle said. “In other words, we’re not resolving the Notre Dame and comparable cases now.”

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Notre Dame in February. And Conkle says it’s too early to tell whether the Supreme Court would take up the Notre Dame or a similar case.