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MN company gets 'Hobby Lobby' exemption; insurance won't cover birth control

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A Minnesota company will not have to provide birth control coverage on its health plans after receiving the same exemption to the federal health care overhaul as Hobby Lobby.

American Manufacturing Co., based in St. Joseph, will not have to provide contraceptive cover in its workplace health insurance plans because its owner, Gregory Hall, is an ordained Catholic deacon in Texas who opposes birth control and sterilization as set out in the Affordable Care Act, the Star Tribune reports.

It becomes the first company in Minnesota to receive the exemption from the Justice Department since a decision by the Supreme Court in the case of Oklahoma-based retailer Hobby Lobby, which ruled that small companies could seek religious exemptions to the birth control mandate.

It means that American Manufacturing will not have to provide any cover for contraceptive drugs or birth control procedures to its 40 staff members.

Hall told KSTP he hopes the decision will "encourage others to stand up and assert their fundamental and legal rights".

Divisive issue

The Hobby Lobby case sparked protests across the United States between those calling for protection of religious freedoms, and those looking to protect reproductive rights.

The Supreme Court's ruling in favor of craft-store chain Hobby Lobby was greeted with both cheers and jeers in Minnesota when it was announced in July. At the time, it was reported that at least eight similar lawsuits involving Minnesota companies were pending.

Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood for Minnesota and the Dakotas, expressed disappointment that American Manufacturing qualified for the exemption.

"It is unbelievable that in 2014, there's still a fight going on about whether women should have access to birth control," she told the Star Tribune. "We know firsthand that access to birth control is both a health care and economic concern for women."

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