Supreme Court will take up birth control dispute

Cases center on health care law's requirement to cover contraception
Associated Press
Nov 27, 2013

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law: whether businesses may use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

The justices said they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.

The Obama administration promotes the law's provision of a range of preventive care, free of charge, as a key benefit of the health care overhaul. Contraception is included in the package of cost-free benefits, which opponents say is an attack on the religious freedom of employers.

The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company's claims.

The court said the cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June.

The cases center on the provision of the law that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide the range of preventive health benefits. In both instances, the Christian families that own the companies say that insuring some forms of contraception violates their religious beliefs.

The key issue is whether profit-making corporations may assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose.

Nearly four years ago, the justices expanded the concept of corporate "personhood," saying in the Citizens United case that corporations have the right to participate in the political process the same way that individuals do. Some lower court judges have applied the same logic in the context of religious beliefs.

"The government has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free," said David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian public interest law firm that is representing Conestoga Wood at the Supreme Court.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the health care law "puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventive care, like cancer screenings and birth control, free of charge." Carney said the administration already has exempted churches from the requirement, and has created a buffer between faith-affiliated charities and contraceptive coverage by requiring insurers or another third party to provide contraceptive coverage instead of the religious employer. Separate lawsuits are challenging that arrangement.

The issue is largely confined to religious institutions and family-controlled businesses with a small number of shareholders. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered coverage before the health care law required it.

Hobby Lobby calls itself a "biblically founded business" and is closed on Sundays. Founded in 1972, the company now operates more than 500 stores in 41 states. The Green family, Hobby Lobby's owners, also owns the Mardel Christian bookstore chain.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said corporations can be protected by the 1993 law in the same manner as individuals, and "that the contraceptive-coverage requirement substantially burdens Hobby Lobby and Mardel's rights under" the law.

In its Supreme Court brief, the administration said the appeals court ruling was wrong and, if allowed to stand, would make the law "a sword used to deny employees of for-profit commercial enterprises the benefits and protections of generally applicable laws."

Conestoga Wood is owned by a Mennonite family who "object as a matter of conscience to facilitating contraception that may prevent the implantation of a human embryo in the womb."

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the company on its claims under the 1993 law and the Constitution, saying "for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise."

The Supreme Court will have to confront several questions: Can these businesses hold religious beliefs; does the health care provision significantly infringe on those beliefs and, even if the answer to the first two questions is "yes," does the government still have a sufficient interest in guaranteeing women who work for the companies access to contraception?

The justices chose two cases in which the companies object to only a few of the 20 forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In a third case in which the court took no action Tuesday, Michigan-based Autocam Corp. doesn't want to pay for any contraception for its employees because of its owners' Roman Catholic beliefs.

The emergency contraceptives Plan B and Ella work mostly by preventing ovulation. The FDA says on its website that Plan B "may also work by preventing fertilization of an egg ... or by preventing attachment (implantation) to the womb (uterus)," while Ella also may work by changing the lining of the uterus so as to prevent implantation.

Hobby Lobby specifically argues that two intrauterine devices (IUDs) also may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. The company's owners say they believe life begins at conception, and they oppose only birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, but not other forms of contraception.

In siding with the administration, several women's groups rejected what they see as efforts by the businesses to come between women and their doctors.

The health care law's inclusion of contraception among preventive health benefits was a major victory in a decades-long fight for equal coverage for women's reproductive health care needs, said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

Citing the example of IUDs, Greenberger said the devices may be the safest, most effective way to prevent pregnancy for women who cannot take the birth control pill. But at $500 to $1,000 for an IUD, "the cost can be prohibitive," she said.




They are not forcing their religious beliefs on anybody. That's where the argument gets bollixed up on BOTH sides. They're not saying that anybody who works for Hobby Lobby can't use birth control. They're not demanding proof job applicants have never had an abortion, nor am I aware of them ever having FIRED someone for having had their tubes tied or taking a Plan B pill.

All that Hobby Lobby is saying is that their religion forbids some of those things and, as a result, they can't buy them — which is what they'd be doing under the Obamacare mandates.

I don't know what you consider to be sinful, nor do you know what I might consider to be sinful. I'm sure you don't care what I do (as long as I don't hurt you or others), and I feel the same way about you. But what if one of us was FORCED to pay for the other's "sins?" I still don't care what you do on your own time, mind you, but I have a serious problem becoming an active participant in it!

Dr. Information

coasterfan has a real hard time differentiating between forcing someone vs not supporting. Two totally different points. FORCING someone would say, if you take birth control and we find out, you are fired or saying if you don't go to church on Sunday, we won't hire you. That is forcing someone to do something to work for their store.

Not supporting birth control is just that. They aren't saying you can or cannot take it. They aren't saying anything but we won't pay for it. BIRTH CONTROL is not a right!


And, to be clear, what they're saying they won't pay for is something that costs $5/month - less than the beer you might buy someone in the quest to do something that might necessitate contraception.

It's understandable, though, because Coaster doesn't think anyone should be responsible for paying for anything for themselves. In Coaster's perfect world, everything would be provided by the state, and thus failure to provide something would amount to a prohibition on having/using it.


Refusing to provide basic healthcare for religious reasons seems like forcing religion.

Dr. Information

birth control is not basic healthcare.


"And I AM glad that they are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as all stores should be......
The store owners have their hearts in the right place. Where they go wrong is trying to force their personal religious beliefs on their employees, many of whom belong to another religion or no religion at all."

You mean like preventing a Hindu or Muslim employee from earning a living on Jesus' birthday, as you say all stores should? Wow, two ADJACENT contradictory sentences is a new extreme even for you.

"Religion has no place in the workplace, unless that workplace is a church."

Telegraphing your communist belief that there should be NO private sector, eh? The First Amendment binds only state actors, aka, the government. Private entities are under no such restriction.

Religion has no place in the workplace, IF AND ONLY IF that workplace is a government agency.


More trouble in that cluster (bleep) known as Obam☭are paradise.


"Obama administration to delay online health care enrollment for small businesses"


Contango: don't you have a job? You post 24/7. Oh. My. God. Could it be that you're one of the 47% that Mitt griped about? Or, do you work from home like me, and set your own hours?

I'm guessing it's the former. No one who actually works for a living would have the same utter contempt for the working man that you have, right?


^^^ Absurdist tripe.


I just like kicking the bear. If I, and other Democrats, let your drivel stand without challenging it, less informed/less intelligent people might accept your point of view as "fact", simply because you come across as educated.

That IS a challenge that we Democrats face. A lot of uneducated people who vote Republican aren't able to tell the difference between Opinion and Fact. Fox, of course, doesn't help, since they have all but erased the distinction between the two.

Dr. Information

Hypocrite. You post 99% opinion and on the rare occasion throw out some bogus link. You are the definition of hypocrite.


Re: "aren't able to tell the difference between Opinion and Fact"

Your perennial issue, since you most often spew political rhetoric and never attempt to educate or convince though the use of documentation.

You had to be one p*ss poor excuse for a "teacher."


Some of you people don't even know what you're talking about. It's not "birth control" like you are all thinking-but after the fact pregnancy control they don't want to be forced to cover, such as the morning after pill, "plan B" , the week after pill. Reason being, they feel as if those drugs (they certainly are not medicines) stop a pregnancy AFTER the point of
Conception-which they do. Government should not force a private business to do anything. If employees don't like it-someone else will always be hiring.

Don't even start with the what-ifs dealing with rape because private insurance doesn't pay for that anyways-the state does or the hospital who has agreed to accept the piddly state reimbursement monies for sexual assault exams.

Hobby Lobby is not saying their employees can not use these drugs-but they don't want to be forced to pay for them.

As for the Viagra comment-Viagra is used to treat a medical disorder. What medical disorder does Plan B treat?

Pterocarya frax...

If Hobby Lobby truly is concerned about the use of a product that stops pregnancy after conception, what are they okay with hormonal birth control (pill, patch, ring, etc)? Hormonal birth control often does not stop ovulation and fertilization, but then prevents the fertilized egg from implanting.

As an alleged nurse, you are aware of that.....right? If you aren't, just ask Rick Santorum. He can esplain it to you.


Re: "If Hobby Lobby,"

Not to worry Caucasian wingnut; months before the Obama☭are employer mandate kicks in, numerous employers will drop their health ins. plans, give their employees a few bucks and let 'em find their own insurance.

Progressive women will be able to (bleep) whomever and as often as they want.

Catch an STD? Don't worry.

Sexual freedom and socialist health care paradise awaits us all!

H*ll, most Americans are too ignorant to understand their 401(k).

Trying to navigate the health ins. market should just add to their confusion.

Pterocarya frax...

When real and legitimate arguments are made, you always try to deflect attention from the real situation. I understand it is part of your job, and your employer pays you extra for handling it that way, because when the real issues are avoided, and you keep working in the Sand C words (socialism/communism) it keeps your loyal readers angry and stupid. Good job.


Re: "socialism/communism"

Just because you're ignorant of the origins of your wrongheaded and failed progressive ideology (Marxism), doesn't make it any less a fact regarding your belief structure.

I'm getting a check for my "contributions"? LMAO!!!

The POINT Caucasian wingnut is that once most employers no longer provide health ins., this birth control controversy will be a non-issue.

Like chess, think a few moves ahead.

Pterocarya frax...

Actually, Winnie, that is where you and your beloved business owners are several moves behind already. Because the liberals have planned so far ahead, and as employers stop providing coverage, we will be moving right into single payer.

Check and mate.


"Because the liberals have planned so far ahead,"

Yes we have all seen that planning first hand. Shovel ready projects that turned out to not be shovel ready, closing gitmo the first year, getting out of Iraq befor the end of obama's first year and Afganastan soon after, IRS debacle, Syria and Bhengazi, obamaSCARE saving $2500 per family, keeping you doctor, and insurance plan if you like them, extending and expanding the patriot act, extending bush's tax cuts for a cuple years after claiming it was the devils work, I could keep going but am getting tired of typing things that show how well you progressives plan things. Do you want to share all the things they planned out the last 5 years and compare?Single payer will take both houses of Congress to pass the bill. How is 14 looking to you nowafter the diaster we are going thriough now? I am sure the country will be backing those who voted in obamaSCARE into existence with NO repubes voting for it. Lets give the losers who voted in that turkey another bite at the apple. Good plan.


Re: "we will be moving right into single payer."

The POINT (once again):

AND birth-control for the promiscuous and others will become a non-issue.

Single payer - what a JOKE.

Medicare and Medicaid lose an estimated $60-$100B annually through waste, fraud and abuse.

Looking forward to seeing the hundreds of billions in losses that single payer will annually bring about. You?

Maybe just hire a few more thousand highly compensated bureaucrats to police the system eh?

Brain dead socialists attempt to suspend market forces, but ULTIMATELY succumb to Mr. Market.

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand."

- Milton Friedman

Pterocarya frax...

Hey look everybody...Taxpayer is back!! Remember how he capitalized every other word. I always knew you 2 were the same commenter. LOL.

Most of the Medicare/Medicaid fraud you mention has been perpetrated by your beloved corporations. Think Columbia/HCA for reference. They paid back 1.7 billion for their lying/cheating ways. I never understood how Rick Scott stayed out of prison for that, much less got elected governor of Florida.

You do realize that provisions in "Obamacare" commit resources and technology to fraud prevention. There have been multiple new prosecutions, and over 10 billion in Medicare fraud has been recovered already since the law was passed. Time to update your talking points.


Re: "I always knew you 2 were the same commenter."

First I was "paid" and now I'm a "twin." Got any other delusions handy? lol

Corps.? Unless you socialists control ALL the means of healthcare delivery in the U.S. by making hospitals and providers public ees., the waste, fraud and abuse will add up into the trillions instead of the hundred of billions.

Dumbed-downed progressives think that they're smarter than the Soviet Russians who were the first in the world to guarantee healthcare for all citizens.

Waste, fraud and abuse was rampant.

Let's discuss free-market ideas like a high deductible (catastrophic) health ins. plan along with Health Savings Accounts like Dr. Ben Carson proposed.

That's what I have - works fine.


What "real and legitimate arguments" would those be?

Pterocarya frax...

It would be that Hobby Lobby is hypocritical in what birth control they are cool. I made that point above, and Contango tried to deflect attention away from it. In case you can't be bothered to go find it, here it is again:

If Hobby Lobby truly is concerned about the use of a product that stops pregnancy after conception, what are they okay with hormonal birth control (pill, patch, ring, etc)? Hormonal birth control often does not stop ovulation and fertilization, but then prevents the fertilized egg from implanting.



Re: "Contango tried to deflect attention away from it."

No, I wrote that eventually your point would be moot.

Before and after the employer mandate kicks in, employers will dump their health plans.

Prediction: The Admin. will lose on this case.

Pterocarya frax...

Each employer that dumps health plans takes us one step closer to single payer.

Prediction: It doesn't matter whether the Administration loses this case. We will have single payer by 2020, or sooner.


Re: "Each employer that dumps health plans takes us one step closer to single payer."

Not inconceivable.

And then "one step closer" to the country's financial, fiscal & economic collapse.

H*ll, these bozos can't even get a website to work and the socialists want 'em in charge of 1/6th of the economy? LMAO!!!


I saw what you said, I just asked where the "real and legitimate arguments" were. You don't get to dictate what constitutes compliance with someone else's religion.


Pterocarya frax: I am not an alleged nurse, I am a nurse. Please research how birth control works and the different types as you are, clearly, uneducated. Birth control pills DO prevent ovulation. They also alter the thickness of cervical mucous as well as the very make-up of the endometrial lining. You must have the same sort of "fact checkers" as your beloved President. Have a nice day...


If the employees of a religious based company don't like or agree with that companies policies; don't work there. They are not forcing their beliefs on anyone. If they were, you wouldn't have been hired in the first place. Will Obama force Muslim based businesses to serve pork products in their cafeterias and/or vending machines for those who enjoy pork? Oh, I guess that's different.