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    In January of 2012, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate under the Affordable Care Act also known as "Obamacare." This mandate requires that all employer health plans provide contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, counseling regarding sexually transmitted diseases, screening for HIV, DNA co-testing for HPV, breastfeeding support and supplies, screening and counseling for domestic violence, and screening for gestational diabetes all for no cost and regardless of any moral or religious objections. These new requirements have been in effect since August 1, 2012 with the exception that religious institutions have until August 1, 2013 to decide whether or not to comply with the new mandate. If religious institutions choose not to comply with the mandate then they have to pay a substantial amount of fines starting in 2014 ($2000 per each company employee minus 30). Many religious companies still find that this exemption puts a substantial burden on their religious freedom in which case some companies try to fight the mandate. .
    Recently, a Michigan company that opposes the mandate brought their case to court. Weingartz Supply Company, owned by Daniel Weingartz, opposed the federal mandate that requires the company to provide insurance that offers free contraceptives due to his religious beliefs. U.S. District Robert Cleland sided with the company and has temporarily blocked implementation of the requirement under the ruling that the federal mandate could infringe on the religious rights of the company. The ruling makes it so that the government is unable to take any action against Weingartz's company. Weingartz has said that he has devised his own health plan that follows his religious beliefs by not covering contraceptives. This plan would be available for his estimated 170 employees that work for Weingartz Supply Company. This is not the first case to be seen that involved the new healthcare mandate and religious beliefs. A second judge in Colorado also issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the enforcement of the contraceptive mandate due to religious beliefs for Hercules Industries.
    Both companies have used the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 as their defenses against the contraceptive mandate. This law states that officials may not burden a person's exercise of religion unless they can show "a compelling governmental interest." The Obama administration has argued that the two compelling reasons for the contraceptive mandate are to promote public health and to further gender equality within the healthcare system. On average, women of childbearing age do spend 68% more out-of-pocket healthcare costs than do men. Obama's Administration has also said that companies should not be provided a religious exemption for the contraceptive mandate because it would allow companies to push their religious beliefs upon their employees and not all employees may share the same religious beliefs. However, the administration has made an agreement to exempt "religious employers" under a few circumstances. If a company's purpose is to educate others about their religious values or if a company primarily employs people who share the same religious beliefs that they profess, the company can be exempted from the contraceptive mandate.
    What many people don't know about the Affordable Care Act is that many insurance plans do not have to abide by many of the required changes that the Affordable Care Act put into place. Some plans may be "grandfathered." These plans are exempt from making certain required changes in health insurance if they do not make significant changes that reduce benefits or increase costs to consumers. In the case where a plan isn't "grandfathered", a woman who is seeking her no-cost birth control can still find that she has to pay her co-pay. Even though the mandate has been in effect since August 1, 2012, health plans do not have to provide the free coverage until their next plan year. For example, students who attend Michigan State University and purchase their health insurance through Michigan State University will not be able to receive contraceptives with no cost-sharing until the next plan year. The next plan year is not until the spring semester of 2013. While many religious institutions are against this mandate because they feel that they should not be required to offer insurance that provides free contraceptives, many women have not even been able to take advantage of this.

    Sources:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/contraception-mandate-religious-freedom_n_1731344.html
    http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/11/michigan_judge_temporarily_blo.html
    http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/viewart/20121101/NEWS01/311010059/Michigan-company-wins-round-contraception-law-suit
    http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/u/us_constitution/first_amendment/index.html
    http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/#grandfatheredhealthplans

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    Jocelyn Cutean serves as Morality and Family policy correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. She is a first-year student at Michigan State, majoring in Theatre and English. Jocelyn has experience working on the executive board of the Waterford Chapter Coalition for Youth. She has also piloted a grant funded city wide public service announcement entitled, "It Just Wasn't Worth It" which exposes the repercussions of driving while intoxicated. Jocelyn enjoys art of all forms, from writing to performance.