Updated on May 16 at 12:06 p.m. ET
The U.S. Supreme Court sent a series of cases challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate back to lower courts on Monday, effectively delaying a major ruling on religious freedom and women’s health until after the 2016 election.
The case, Zubik v. Burwell, combined seven separate challenges brought by religious nonprofits against a mandate that required them to provide coverage for birth control in their employee insurance plans. The act allowed the nonprofits to file a one-page form with the Department of Health and Human Services to opt out, but the nonprofits said this requirement also violated their religious beliefs.
Many observers expected the case to be a 5-4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the swing vote. But the death of Antonin Scalia on February 13 raised the specter of a 4-4 split. An unusual order last month asking the parties for rebriefing on a possible compromise seemed like a last-ditch attempt at avoiding deadlock.
That effort seems to have succeeded for now. In an unsigned decision, the Court remanded the cases back to the federal appellate courts and instructed them to reconsider the positions staked out in the new briefs.