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.

 

Comments

Pterocarya frax...

Yeah that is different.....and stupid.

Contango

Re: "Yeah that is different....."

No stories in the media about Muslim firms being required to cover birth control and abortions.

Wonder why?

Your bud, coasterfan writes that the Amish should be forced to pay SS and Medicare taxes. What say you?

Always love how you socialists are into force and control and you call it freedom.

Nemesis

"Yeah that is different.....and stupid."

Actually, it's exactly the same.

Pterocarya frax...

When I first read Train's comment I possibly misinterpreted the term "religious based company". After re reading I decided Hobby Lobby does probably qualify as such, so I was almost ready to concede that you are correct.

But then I thought about it some more and decided that no, I should not give it to you. First off, Hobby Lobby is hypocritical about paying for birth control, as I explained in a previous comment.

Secondly, the idea that Obama would make a muslim based company is absurdist tripe, and stupid.

Third, if we let Hobby Lobby out of paying for birth control, we start down a very slippery slope. Next a Jehovah's Witness will say he won't pay for health insurance that won't cover blood transfusions. Where does it stop?

Contango

Re: "Where does it stop?"

When (to use a sport analogy), the govt. quits being coach, owner and referee and goes back to it's traditional role as ONLY referee.

But the socialists won't stop until they control all the means of production and the system eventually collapses.

Mr. Market ALWAYS wins in the end.

The socialists may be able to give the illusion that they are in control, but eventually every market reverts to the mean.

Nemesis

First off, your accusation of hypocrissy rests upon the proposition that you get to dictate the rules of someone else's religion.

Your secondly makes no sense. Obama making a Muslim based company is illegal, since he's not allowed to invest while in office - his investments are in a blind trust. Now maybe you've just adopted the sloppy writing style of some SR columnists, and meant something else. However, assuming you meant Obama/the government making a Muslim owned company serve pork, the mandate in question is exactly the same thing - forcing an employer to purchase a good or service for employees that his religion forbids. The fact that you can't conceive or a reason why the government might do such a thing in no way reduces its value as an illustration of the constitutional issue.

I have no problem with JW's not offering health insurance, or with not giving employees holidays off (JWs' beliefs also forbid celebrating holidays or birthdays.) I will just avoid working for them, unless they offer a very substantial pay differential.

The fact that, for several decades, employers have offered health insurance in no way makes it some sort of obligation that they must. They do it because it's a benefit they can offer to entice people to work for them, and because they can pool their employees to make it cost less. People who went to the trouble to develop valuable skills have always had options, and employers have offered various benefits to attract them.

Pterocarya frax...

1) Re: "First off, your accusation of hypocrissy [sic] rests upon the proposition that you get to dictate the rules of someone else's religion." Either you don't understand science or you don't understand hypocrisy. The hypocrisy is that hormonal birth control that they claim they are okay with, does the same thing that the forms they are trying to refuse to pay for.

2) Are you really accusing me of adopting a "sloppy writing style" for leaving out 2 words? Whatever dude. Reread your post where you have a misspelled word (hypocrisy), used a nonsensical statement (you can't conceive or a reason), and are too lazy to spell out a religious name (JW). How does it feel to be hoisted on your own petard?

3) I have no problem with any organization (alleged religious or otherwise), not paying for health coverage either. It is time we moved to single payer anyway.

Contango

Re: "It is time we moved to single payer anyway."

Don't ONLY socialists advocate for socialistic programs?

Not to worry, the baby boomers will help bankrupt this country without single payer.

Imagine approx. 78 million baby boomers in nursing homes paid largely by Medicaid and all FREE.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/0...

Hope you're saving and investing and protecting your own cause this financial ship is goin' DOWN.

Nemesis

1)Science has nothing to do with it. You're saying that their beliefs have to conform to YOUR reasoning of why something is a sin. There are several ethical/moral frameworks where what you outlined is not hypocritical - for instance, most concepts of sin involve some element of intent.

2)You left out two words that were critical to the meaning of the sentence, and frankly, I'm not interested in wasting time going back and forth over putting words in your mouth when your actual words are ambiguous due to carelessness. Wow, you found two obvious typos - thanks for reminding me to proofread, but a 10 year old can discern the clear meaning in both cases. There's nothing wrong with using abbreviations.

3) Then you do have a problem with an employer not paying for someone's health care, because single payer forces us all to pay for the health care of others.

Pterocarya frax...

1. Science has everything to do with my arguments of their hypocrisy. I am sorry if I have not explained it simply enough for your brain to understand, so I suggest that you do some reading of how hormonal birth control (the pill, etc.) functions in a woman's body. Hobby Lobby claims not to be opposed to hormonal birth control, but is opposed to some other types of birth control that act the same way in the body to prevent implantation of the egg. That my friend, is where the science comes in. It has nothing to do with my reasoning of what is sin.

2. Anyone who reads back through the entire thread would have zero problem understanding what I was saying, even though I left out 2 words....zero. And at the time you had no problem wasting a lot of time ridiculing me for it. Here is some helpful information on using abbreviations, because your use was wrong:

http://essayinfo.com/sguides/abb...

Nemesis

I can almost guarantee that I understand the biology and chemistry of the various forms of contraception as well or better than you do, and I am fully aware of what occasionally happens with "the pill." I am not disputing the accuracy of your scientific claims; only their relevance.

If I shoot you, my religion calls it murder, but if you are actively trying to kill me when I do it, or if it happens because you run out into the middle of a firing range at the worst possible moment, it's not a sin. The fact that the chemical reaction of the gunpowder and the physiological effects on your body are the same have no bearing.

Again, slowly this time just for you, each religion may choose, for itself, what criteria, SUCH AS INTENT, for instance, to apply in deciding the moral impact of an action. You do not get to impose upon someone else's religion your desired standard of basing the moral character of an action solely on the occasional, possible outcomes. That's what separation of church and state is all about - the sword cuts both ways.

No one ridiculed you - I called attention to the mistake, the ambiguity it created, and the interpretation I was taking, lest you decide to claim, truly or not, the alternate meaning, and accuse me of putting words in your mouth.

SamAdams

I believe that, along with Congress, unions, and various and sundry other Democrat donors, Muslims are just as exempt from Obamacare as are the Amish. At least the latter have a valid rationale for exemption! They pay cash (usually a community effort). What's the rationale behind the rest? Oh, yeah, Obamacare is too expensive on too many levels, and too restrictive. Huh. What a surprise...

(As far as any Muslim exemption goes, it's immaterial whether or not Obama actually IS Muslim. Regardless, he's willing to bend over backwards and twist the Constitution into knots just to show the Middle East how totally cool with Islam he is!)

Pterocarya frax...

Re: "No stories in the media about Muslim firms being required to cover birth control and abortions. Wonder why?"

OK...let's just get it out there. It is because Obama is a mooslim, and they don't want to hurt their leader! Feel better?

Contango

Re: "It is because Obama is a mooslim, and they don't want to hurt their leader!"

To quote you: "Yeah that is different.....and stupid."

The POINT (again) is that Christianity and Islam share some similar beliefs regarding birth control.

Wait until the employer mandate starts kickin' in - the jury is still out.

kURTje

No problem. Got the vasectomy. Some others here don't have to worry either - they can't get it up.

SamAdams

So then why are you being forced to pay for contraceptive and prenatal care coverage? Is some miracle in the works about which none of us have been told?

Nemesis

Um, could it be for the same reason I am taxed to pay for rehab for drunks and junkies even though I've never had more than 2 glasses of wine in a month and I'm hesitant to even take aspirin?

OSUBuckeye59

Unless I'm wrong, and Lord knows not only could I be but no doubt there will be a few of you folks very quickly pointing to where I'm wrong. :)

But anyway . . . the ACA is only "affordable" when everyone either signs on or pays the tax not to sign on. Either way, the ACA needs the nation's collective money. If Hobby Lobby or any other for-profit business wins the right to pick and choose what coverage they will/will not pay for, it will open the doors for a rush by other for-profit corporations similar to what WalMart experienced last evening in several states when doors opened on Thanksgiving sales: a stampede. If for-profit companies start to deny coverage on certain covered expenses, as the combined denial of these same coverage items starts to accumulate, insurers will change their plans to not include coverage and anyone wanting those particular procedures or drugs will have to foot a very expensive bill, if patients could even find providers because, as an example, drug companies could very well stop production of certain medications not covered and charge outrageously for current stock until it runs out.

Pterocarya frax...

Overall you are fairly accurate on your points, and after all that is the goal of the Obamacare haters...to make the system implode. They mistakenly believe it will send us back to the system that has failed many Americans miserably for years. In reality though, we are inevitably headed towards Universal health care without the deniers.

The US is one of the last industrialized countries in the world without universal health care, and in spite of the claims of some, we are falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world in health outcomes. The US health care system is ranked 37th in the world by the World Health Organization.

http://www.policymic.com/article...
http://www.theatlantic.com/inter...

And for those of you that hate that thought of single payer, here is good article about places you can move to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/da...

OSUBuckeye59

I'm definitely in favor of a National healthcare plan. I'm just not in agreement with much of the ACA, which can quickly lead to the question of, "Should we scrap the ACA and put the right plan in place or should we improve the ACA because if we scrap it then who knows when a National healthcare plan will ever be passed by our Federally-elected officials?" And that's the hard question for me. I don't know if the ACA can be corrected as it needs to be, yet I also very much doubt if any Congress & President would ever be able to pass a new National healthcare plan. It would take far better Presidential, House & Senate Leaders than we have today. I just have such a hard time viewing our President, and the both the House and Senate Majority & Minority Leaders. They're all anything but Leaders, IMHO.

Pterocarya frax...

While most will agree that Obamacare is a piece of caca, and the implementation of the website has been a massive case of diarrhea, we need to step back and use some perspective.

Medicare Part D was a huge unfunded mandate and the rollout and implementation was deeply flawed. At the time I felt it should be scrapped too. Over time though, they have worked out a lot of kinks, and it has become a very popular program, albeit a cash cow for the drug companies. There were similar problems with the health care program in Massachusetts as well, but now 97% of the people of that state have coverage, and overall it is working fairly well.

I post on here occasionally, mostly just to rile up some of the angry conservatives, but the reality of the situation is that the costs of health care are one of the primary causes of the financial health of this country. Therefore, we need massive reform, and the conservatives will be dragged there, kicking and screaming about socialism, since they clearly have shown no leadership on the issue.

So the only question becomes "how do we get there"? My preference would be through evaluating what works well in other countries like Australia, Germany, Canada, etc., and then implementing a hybrid sort of system that still allows (like those socialists in Germany) for a private health system in addition.

Whether we get there through Obamacare, or starting from scratch, we must get there. It is also certainly not inconceivable that it happens through the states, like Massachusetts has shown.

Contango

Re: "the costs of health care are one of the primary causes of the financial health of this country."

Which is why a high deductible health plan (HDHP) combined with a Health Savings Account (HSA) is an approach worth debating.

Unfortunatly, Pres. Obama and the Dems instituted this fascistic monstrosity known as the ACA.

Want universal health coverage? Get ready for MASSIVE tax increases in order to support it.

Not to worry, nursing home care for baby boomers will bankrupt Medicaid anyway.

Still got parents? Watch out for filial laws - you're legally responsible.

http://elder-law.lawyers.com/eld...

The Big Dog's back

Your taxes would increase a little but you wouldn't be paying for medical at work. Your out of pocket dollars would be minute. In the end you would be ahead.

Contango

Re: "In the end you would be ahead."

First dollar benefit no out-of-pocket universal coverage as opposed to private plans with deductibles and co-pays?

MASSIVE tax increases.

No comparison.

The Big Dog's back

Wrong again pooh.

Nemesis

Proving once again, leftists just don't get supply and demand.

Nemesis

" My preference would be through evaluating what works well "

Well, then, it's notable that one segment of the healthcare industry has, since its inception, seen constant increases in quality and outcomes coupled with constant decreases in cost. It's also notable that this segment is the most free market part of the healthcare industry, and completely outside the health insurance sphere - surgical vision correction.

Nemesis

Whether we are behind or ahead is a matter of opinion. Note that the assorted royalty of the Middle East, who can choose to get their healthcare wherever they wish, fly right over all those utopias of universal health care on their way to American hospitals.

Pterocarya frax...

Without a doubt, we have some great doctors, technology and facilities in the US. And yes of course, those oil rich middle easterners will come here to avail themselves of those features, just like the rich here can buy those services whether or not their plan covers it.

Evaluating infant mortality and all other health outcomes is done by using science and math. It is not "a matter of opinion".

Nemesis

Evaluating infant mortality and all other health outcomes is done by using statistical chicanery, not science and math.

Our infant mortality rates are higher because more of our at risk pregnancies actually carry to term and live birth, which makes them eligible to be counted as infant mortalities. It is, in fact, an indicator of the how much better our prenatal care is.

"All other health outcomes" is a nebulous term that typically lumps in pseudo-scientific feel good new age concepts, and the negative consequences of personal behavioral choices, rather than measuring the quality of the actual healthcare industry.

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