The U.S. Supreme Court returned Zubik v. Burwell to lower courts on Monday, asking them to work out a compromise. The case has to do with the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide contraception as part of insurance coverage.
Several religious nonprofits had sued over the issue, including Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas. They contend they have moral objections to providing contraception to women as part of health benefits. Houses of worship were already exempt from the requirement, but not religiously-affiliated nonprofits such as nursing homes and colleges. The federal government had asked the nonprofits to file a form outlining their objections, which would allow the insurance company to give contraceptives directly to the women employees. But the nonprofits said they shouldn't have to file the form. Some of the plaintiffs object to all forms of contraception, others to certain forms like IUDs, which they liken to abortion. (Research indicates this is not how IUDs work.)
The new order indicates the Supreme Court may be split 4-4 on the issue following the death of Antonin Scalia in February. The eight justices directed lower courts to work on a compromise between the plaintiffs and federal health regulators. In the meantime, women who work at the religious nonprofits will still be able to access free contraception, and the federal government cannot fine or penalize the nonprofits for not submitting the form.