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.




Re: "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."

Their explanation of this "buffer" is absurd.

Several of those employers self-insure and hire management cos. to pay the bills.

Love the hypocrisy of the progressives' cafeteria approach to "separation of church and state."

The one-size-fits-all approach of Obama☭are is socialistic nonsense.

Why don't the Amish pay SS and Medicare taxes? Shouldn't Pres. Obama force 'em?

The Big Dog's back

I don't know, why don't they?


I shop at another art supply store now.


Contango: What is absurd is that an employer thinks they can push their religious beliefs on their employees. This is NOT a separation of church and state issue, since Hobby Lobby isn't a church. It is Hobby Lobby who brought church into the discussion.

The only hypocrisy I see is that of Republicans, who don't want to fund free contraceptives, and also don't want to fund the obvious result of that mindset: food stamps for the millions of additional babies who are born to low-income folks who would've otherwise used those condoms.

I agree that the Amish should pay social security and Medicare.

Oh, and by the way, you can stop with the silly communist references to Obamacare, since it (unlike the federally provided health care in other countries) is a free marketplace where Americans can shop for insurance.
Besides, Obamacare has a definite Republican thumbprint on it, since Obama had to include several compromises, in order to get it to pass in 2010. Also, it's basically the same as the policy the GOP/Heritage Foundation proposed during the Bush years. Did you call it a communist/socialist thing then?

And finally, do you even know the difference between communism and socialism, since you often use the two terms interchangeably?

My cousin in Seattle announced yesterday that he will pay $343 less per month with his Obamacare insurance, and has BETTER coverage than before.
Now, if we can only get the dang website to work...


Re: "do you even know the difference between communism and socialism, since you often use the two terms interchangeably?"

Stated numerous times: To Marx and Engels they were synonymous.

Early American progressives understood that Progressivism was Fabian socialism.


"My cousin in Seattle announced yesterday that he will pay $343 less per month with his Obamacare insurance, and has BETTER coverage than before.
Now, if we can only get the dang website to work..."

Meaning it covers more things, that is one thing it does. Is the deductable higher or lower? Is the co-pay the same, higher, lower? Are the limit per person covered higher or lower? How about the total for the family?

There are more things than coverage that makes up an insurance plan. ObamaSCARE would cover things,... more things that I don't have or need covered. I don't need baby coverage, juvenile coverage prenatal coverage, and several other things. That doesn't mean it is BETTER coverage... it means that my family doesn't need that coverage and doesn't need to pay for coverage it doesn't need. It is called choice... I prefer choice to being told what I need when it is something I DON'T need. I DON'T need a one plan (or as in obamaSCARE) four plans fit all. I prefer choice.

Dr. Information

Whats amazing is the exemptions Obama has given out already (big unions..etc) but Lord forbid he exempt one small fraction of this bill for a small group asking to for religious reasons.


Hobby Lobby has 220+ stores and 13,000 employees. That is not a small group.

Dr. Information

and birth control isn't a right.

The Big Dog's back

Yes it is.


A perfect example of what the problem is. Some want the government to take care of them, others want to live freely and take their chances.


Live free until they can't afford their medical bills. Then they want help when it costs all of us more to provide it.


This continued intrusion into private lives by the government will be our ultimate downfall of America and the values it was founded on.

Peninsula Pundit

Sure, corporations give one fig about religious observance.
These are the same corporations who will work their staff overtime every religious holiday and use the observance to put non-stop ads on TV to BUY!BUY!BUY!, never alluding to anything near religious observance.
But, oh,no, we don't want our employees to have birth control.It violates our religious sensitivities.
But Viagara? Well, that's OK.





70% of U.S. GDP is based on consumerism.

Materialism IS the national "religion."

Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-a and others CLOSE on Sun. and religious holidays - refutes your argument.


Wal Mart, Target, Best Buy, and LOTS of others are open on Sundays and religious holidays. Refutes your argument.


Re: "Wal Mart, Target, Best Buy,"

Off topic.


Because they all look the same to you, right?


Unless Hobby Lobby donates 10% of it's earnings to the church, then I would say that, yes, they are religious hypocrites. Since they don't, that refutes your argument.

Personally, I think Chick-Fil-A should donate another 10% of their profit to the LGBT community for their obvious anti-gay stance. I'm pretty sure that Jesus would have seen things exactly the opposite as Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A.


Re: "Unless Hobby Lobby donates 10% of it's earnings to the church,"

How do you know that they don't?

Does the State get to pick the church?


^^godless sinner pretending to know the mind of Christ.^^

Luke 17:26-32 Jesus spoke about the sin of homosexuality bringing about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Matthew 19:4 Jesus spoke about what constitutes marriage and thereby condemning anything outside of God’s standard.


Not all churches preach tithing. Freedom of religion, and your fetish phrase "separation of church and state" mean that you don't get to decide what constitutes full observance of another person's religion.


Hobby Lobby is CLOSED on Sunday and all holidays. Just an FYI


So! Your point?


Re: "So! Your point?"

See: Topic and PP's absurd assertion.




Re: This court case.

Better get ALL the facts:

"The Green family (Hobby Lobby) has no moral objection to the use of 16 of 20 preventive contraceptives required in the mandate but it says it cannot provide or pay for four of the drugs including Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill."

They're OK with 80%!

Gotta love ol' Pres. Obama's dictatorial my-way-or-the-highway attitude.


Thanks for the update/details. Actually, I'm pleased to hear about the Green family's stance; being 20% wrong is better than being 100% wrong, I suppose. 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.
Religion has no place in the workplace, unless that workplace is a church.

Re: Obama's supposed my-way-or-highway attitude. The same idiots who say things like that are also the ones who say he is too conciliatory or wishy-washy. Some, including myself, see a my-way-or-highway stance as good leadership. That certainly served previous presidents well, didn't it?


Re: "including myself, see a my-way-or-highway stance as good leadership."

Your affinity toward authoritarian-totalitarianism is perfectly clear comrade.