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Appeals court to hear Obamacare challenge

March 31, 2013 at 4:39 PM

DENVER, March 31 (UPI) -- A Denver federal appeals court has granted a request for a full-court hearing in a legal challenge to a contraception mandate in the U.S. healthcare reform law.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday granted a request by Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. -- based in Oklahoma City -- to expedite the case because the company would face a daily fine of as much as $1.3 million beginning in July if it fails to comply with the healthcare law, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported.

The crafts retailer had challenged the section of the Affordable Care Act that mandates providing employees with coverage for emergency contraception, because Hobby Lobby founder David Green and his family feel the morning-after pill and some other kinds of emergency contraceptives are forms of abortion, and thus conflict with the family's religious beliefs.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit, said appeals cases usually are heard by a panel of three judges, but Hobby Lobby had asked for the full court to hear the case -- a request that federal appellate courts rarely grant.

"It's extraordinarily rare for the court to do that -- we think the takeaway is that the court as a whole recognizes how important the case is and wants to devote its full attention to it," Duncan said.

Hobby Lobby hopes a nine-judge panel will hear oral arguments in April or May, the newspaper said.

The U.S. Supreme Court in December blocked Hobby Lobby's request for an emergency injunction to block contraceptive insurance coverage requirements, saying it would not consider the case until lower courts have ruled.

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