Editor's note: The U.S. Supreme Court has ducked a major ruling on a challenge by religious employers to an Affordable Care Act mandate to provide female workers health insurance that covers birth control. Our earlier update stated the top court ruled in favor of the employers, but we've corrected the update to say the cases were sent back to lower courts for further proceedings. The justices ruled unanimously to send the cases back to federal appeals courts, where all but one of four courts upheld the mandate, according to USA Today. - Rebecca
Editor's note: The new challenge before the Supreme Court to President Obama's Affordable Care Act involves birth-control coverage. The law exempts churches but not religiously-affiliated nonprofit employers such as Catholic universities or hospitals. - Tom
Doctors' association representing 90% of board-certified US gynecologists endorses Democrat-sponsored legislation to override the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby birth control decision - @HuffPostPol
Hobby Lobby co-founder on Supreme Court decision: 'Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court's decision. Today the nation's highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country's founding principles' - via @NBCNews
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A contraceptive mandate is a state or federal regulation or law that requires health insurers, or employers that provide their employees with health insurance, to cover some contraceptive costs in their health insurance plans. In 1978, the U.S. Congress made it clear that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy was discrimination on the basis of sex. In 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided insurance for prescription drugs to their employees but excluded birth control were violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) on 23 March 2010. As of 1 August 2011, female contraception was added to a list of preventive services covered by the ACA that would be provided without patient co-payment. The federal mandate applies to all new health insurance plans in all states from 1 August 2012. Grandfathered plans do not have to comply unless they change substantially. To be grandfathered, a group plan must have existed or an individual plan must have been sold before President Obama signed the law; otherwise they must comply with the new law. The Guttmacher Institute noted that even before the federal mandate was implemented, twenty-eight states had their own mandates that required health insurance to cover the prescription contraceptives, but the federal mandate innovated by forbidding insurance companies from charging part of the cost to the patient.