MN business gets OK to exclude birth control from health plans

Updated 1:40 p.m. | Posted 9:48 a.m.

A central Minnesota business has won state court approval to exclude birth control from its employees' health insurance plans.

American Mfg Co., which makes mud pumps and pump parts, sought a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act mandate, which requires contraceptive coverage in employers' health plans. The St. Joseph-based company won a preliminary injunction in 2013.

Company attorney Thomas Mathews says American Mfg Co. is the first Minnesota firm to win a permanent injunction. Eight companies in the state have sought exemptions.

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American Mfg owner Gregory Hall, a Catholic deacon who conducts religious services and preaches, is opposed to birth control.

Mathews said Hall was delighted by the court decision and "hopes that his actions will support other people that would have his same concerns and force the government to recognize their sincerely held religious beliefs."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that retailer Hobby Lobby could not be forced to provide birth control coverage to its workers against its owner's religious beliefs.

Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota criticized the Minnesota court ruling.

Most Americans oppose employers interfering with contraceptive care even though the U.S. Supreme Court allowed religious exemptions, she added.

"I just find it deeply disturbing that this court ruling allows bosses to interfere with the most personal and private health care decisions that women make and have a detrimental effect on their pocket books," Stoesz said. "It's wrong and it should not be allowed to stand."