Supreme Court sidesteps major ruling on Obamacare contraception coverage

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Obamacare Challenged in Supreme Court for Fourth Time

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ducked a major ruling on a challenge by Christian nonprofit employers to an Obamacare mandate to provide female workers health insurance covering birth control by sending the cases back to lower courts for further proceedings.

The court unanimously threw out lower court rulings that had favored the Obama administration but did not rule on the merits of the challenge brought by the religious employers, forcing the lower courts to reconsider the dispute.

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The justices in previous decisions since 2012 had fended off other major conservative challenges to the law, considered President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement.

The dispute before the justices involved seven consolidated cases focusing on whether nonprofit entities that oppose the contraception mandate on religious grounds can object under a 1993 U.S. law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to a compromise measure offered by the government.

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Supreme Court sidesteps major ruling on Obamacare contraception coverage
An estimated 5,000 people, women and men, march around the Minnesota Capitol building protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, ruling against state laws that criminalize abortion, in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 22, 1973. The marchers formed a "ring of life" around the building. (AP Photo)
1966: Since 1966 police have to advise a suspect that they have the right to remain silent and the right to counsel during interrogation. The so called 'Miranda Warning' after Ernesto Miranda who had a retrial because he was not so advised. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
Clarence Earl Gideon, 52-year-old mechanic who changed the course of legal history, is seen shortly after his release from prison on August 6, 1963 in Panama City, Florida. In 1961, Gideon was wrongly charged with burglary and sentenced to five years in prison. Gideon filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that his constitutional right to liberty was denied when Florida refused him an attorney. In a landmark decision later known as Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, stating that anyone accused of a crime should be guaranteed the right to an attorney, whether or not he or she could afford one. (AP Photo)
Linda Brown Smith, 9, is shown in this 1952 photo. Smith was a 3rd grader when her father started a class-action suit in 1951 of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., which led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 landmark decision against school segregation. (AP Photo)
African American students at a segregated school following the supreme court case Plessy vs Ferguson established Separate But Equal, 1896. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Dollree Mapp, 12, who was involved in a Landmark U.S. Supreme court decision concerning illegal search and seizure in 1931, is escorted into 105th precinct in New York by CET. John Bergersen. She was arrested in her apartment in Queens, New York City on February 18, where police said they recovered drugs valued at $800,000. A man, Allen Lyins, 33, was also taken into custody. The landmark decision, Mapp V. Ohio, found for Mrs. Mapp on grounds that police had forcibly searched her apartment in 1961 with out search warrant. (AP Photo)
President Nixon tells a White House news conference, March 15, 1973, that he will not allow his legal counsel, John Dean, to testify on Capitol Hill in the Watergate investigation and challenged the Senate to test him in the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)
Supporters of the U.S. Supreme Courts ruling on same-sex marriage gather on the step of the Texas Capitol for a news conference celebrating marriage equality and looking to important work ahead, Monday, June 29, 2015, in Austin, Texas. The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Some of the parents who brought suit against public schoolroom prayer in the Herricks School District pose with some of their children at Roslyn Heights, a Long Island suburb of New York City, after the Supreme Court said the prayer was unconstitutional on June 26, 1962. The group was sparked by Lawrence Roth, right foreground. Parents are, at center, left to right, Thelma Engel, Ruth Liechtenstein and the Roths. Children are, left to right, rear: Michael Engel, 11; Dan Roth, 17; Judy Liechtenstein, 19; and Joe Roth, 14. Front: Jonathan Engel, 4, and Madeleine Engel, 7. (AP Photo)
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The justices did not rule on the merits of whether an accommodation crafted by the Obama administration in 2013 to ensure that the employees receive contraception coverage violates their employer's religious rights.

The unsigned decision was announced by Chief Justice John Roberts. The court said it was opting against ruling on the merits in part because of "the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties" in recent weeks.

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