Judge says businesses do not have to provide HIV medication

Southwest

SAN ANSELMO, CA – NOVEMBER 23: Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada are displayed at Jack’s Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — A pair of Texas businesses will not have to provide their employees with coverage for preventive HIV medication, after a district judge ruled requiring the companies to do so would violate their religious freedoms.

The two businesses, Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics, argued they did not want to cover HIV PrEP, a medication recommended for people at high risk of HIV transmission such as gay and bisexual men, because they did not want to promote “homosexual behavior,” according to court documents.

District Judge Reed O’Connor ended the case on Wednesday in a 42-page ruling, ending years of purgatory for the lawsuit originally filed in Texas in 2020.

The lawsuit, filed by lawyer John Mitchell on behalf of a handful of businesses and citizens, challenged an Obamacare mandate that employers must cover preventive treatments for things such as STDs. It argued the federal government was imposing on the religious freedoms of private businesses.

“The government cannot possibly show that forcing private insurers to provide PrEP drugs, the HPV vaccine, and screenings and behavioral counseling for STDs and drug use free of charge is a policy of such overriding importance that it can trump religious-freedom objections,” the lawsuit said.

O’Connor ultimately agreed, ruling the federal government did not demonstrate a strong enough case to prove the law did not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“The mandates force Braidwood to underwrite coverage for services to which it holds sincere religious objections. This injury is distinct from the pocketbook injury Braidwood would incur in paying for the objectionable services,” O’Connor’s ruling said.

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