Hobby Lobby ruling on contraceptives may not apply in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that closely held companies can't be compelled to offer employees birth control if they reject on religious grounds may have no impact in Oregon.

It's not because there’s only one Hobby Lobby store in the state (in Albany), but because Oregon has a contraceptive equity law.

“I think Hobby Lobby would be required to provide coverage in Oregon,” said David Fidanque, executive director of ACLU of Oregon.

Contraceptive equity laws require that health insurance policies issued in the state and that provide coverage for prescription drugs generally must provide coverage for any prescription drug or device that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as a contraceptive, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

In Oregon, the law applies to each prescription drug benefit program or offered under a health benefit plan or student health insurance policy, according to the law center.

Fidanque said Hobby Lobby would have to rely on the First Amendment or the Oregon constitution to argue its case. Both have been interpreted to say there is no right to refuse to comply with a generally applicable statute.

There is an exemption for religious employers but those have been defined as only nonprofits, Fidanque said.

All things considered, he said, Monday’s decision “could have been a lot worse.”

“The court obviously is conflicted about this issue and today’s decision is unfortunate and wrong, but it’s also a narrow decision,” Fidanque said. “It may not have a lasting impact on access to contraceptives.”

Fidanque said if the Obama administration or Congress exempt closely-held corporations from the ACA provision on contraception, just as religious nonprofits are exempt, then such coverage would be picked up by the insurance company at no cost to the employer.

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU.com news partner.

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