Health law birth control coverage before justices

Court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans
Associated Press
Mar 23, 2014

The Obama administration and its opponents are renewing the Supreme Court battle over President Barack Obama's health care law in a case that pits the religious rights of employers against the rights of women to the birth control of their choice.

Two years after the entire law survived the justices' review by a single vote, the court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans as part of the law's preventive care requirement.

Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by federal regulators.

Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

The largest company among them, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the Green family that owns it, say their "religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception."

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby has more than 15,000 full-time employees in more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states. The Greens are evangelical Christians who also own Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family and employing 950 people in making wood cabinets.

The administration says a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what's best for their health, not whether they can afford it. The government's supporters point to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue; a very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.

"Women already have an income gap. If these companies prevail, they'll have a health insurance gap, too," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

The contraceptives at issue before the court are the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, and two IUDs.

The government also argues that employers would be able to invoke religious objections under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to opt out of other laws, including those governing immunizations, minimum wages and Social Security taxes. The Supreme Court previously has rejected some of these claims in cases decided before the law's enactment.

The issue is largely confined to 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 such coverage before the health care law required it. There are separate lawsuits challenging the contraception provision from religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities.

The federal appeals court in Denver ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Conestoga Wood lost its case at the federal appeals court in Philadelphia

In many respects, Hobby Lobby is the sort of company Obama would be pointing to as he advocates for corporate responsibility and a higher minimum wage.

Hobby Lobby's base pay for full-time employees is almost twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. They are offered health insurance, dental coverage and a retirement savings plan. Hobby Lobby stores close most nights at 8 p.m., which the company says is aimed at allowing employees to spend more time with their families.

The Greens say they have no desire to make health care decisions for their employees, but neither do they want to contribute to services to which they object.

One key issue before the justices is whether profit-making corporations may assert religious beliefs under the 1993 religious freedom law or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. The court could skirt that issue by finding that the individuals who own the businesses have the right to object.

The justices still would have to decide whether the birth control requirement really impinges on religious freedom, and if so, whether the government makes a persuasive case that the policy is important and is put in place in the least objectionable way possible.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood say the burden they face is clear in the $100-a-day fine for each employee they would have to pay for not complying with the contraception provision. By contrast, businesses that choose not to offer health insurance at all can pay a tax of $2,000 a year for each employee.

One potentially underemphasized aspect of the case is that there is no requirement that employers offer health insurance. They could pay the tax, which will be cheaper in many instances, according to Georgetown University's Martin Lederman, who has advanced the argument.

But Mark Rienzi, a Catholic University professor who is on the Hobby Lobby legal team, said Hobby Lobby would be at a competitive disadvantage with other employers who offer health insurance. "Their view is and has always been that they want to take really good care of their employees and their families," Rienzi said.

The companies 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. There is dispute over whether any of these contraceptives works by preventing implantation, but the administration has not raised that issue in this case.

 

Comments

Darwin's choice

Default answer butt licker.

Democrats and obamacare are circling the drain....

Contango

Re: "Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge,"

lol

Only govt. bureaucrats believe in the word: FREE

TANSTAAFL

Stop It

You just reminded me of a book I lost in the shuffle of a temporary move to Phx, AZ. I'll have to get another copy. I had just started it way back in the 70's.

Contango

Re: "a book,"

The title of which is?

Stop It

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. He coined that acronym back in 1966 in said book.

Contango

Re: "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"

Great book!

The perceived "lefty" counter to it is: "Stranger in a Strange Land."

One of my elderly neighbors lived next door to Heinlein in AZ as a child and he has autographed first editions which Heinlein gave to his father.

SamAdams

I'm jealous! I have a collection of Heinlein's books myself, but they're certainly not signed!

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is both brilliant and timely. It should be required reading for all politicians.

The Big Dog's back

Off topic pooh.

SamAdams

Read the book, Big Dog, and you'll find out just how ON topic it really is! Besides, you might actually learn something...

The Big Dog's back

No thanks, I'm a reality person, not fiction.

Stop It

I liked a lot of that genre in HS and after for some time. Another author was Kurt Vonnegut. I believe my room mate ended up with R.H.'s book.

Dr. Information

These companies are not forcing their ways. They just are only saying, hey, we won't pay for it.

BC is cheap anyhow.

Don't like it, don't work there.

coasterfan

They're also saying that they won't give their employees what all other Americans receive, because of their OWN religious beliefs. So, they are, in effect, forcing their own religious beliefs on other people.

These are the same people who also complain about abortions, and having to fund food stamps and other programs for the inevitable children who are born when contraceptives are not available, yet they deny contraceptives that would prevent that.

I don't like the "If ya don't like it, don't work there" mindset. It can be used to justify Neanderthal thinking that has no place in modern-day America, be it racism, an unsafe work environment or what Hobby Lobby is doing.

Telling them they can "work somewhere else" is obviously not a realistic thing to say, given that there are 3 unemployed people for every job opening. When your party decides to finally get on board with Obama's jobs program initiatives, and finally owns up to the reality that 7 million American jobs disappeared under the last GOP president, THEN you can start giving people advice on where they should/shouldn't work.

anthras

Re:"7 million American jobs disappeared under the last GOP president"

It was the last GOP president and Democratic congress.

Stop It

Yeah and obama's plan is working out so well with unemployment. It sure did start with bush bot obama has done nothing to improve it. NOW, one can't find a minimum wage that gives more than 29 hrs a week because of his weak assed insurance policy he now refuses to enforce until he is out of office. Like he can do anything then, huh?

Contango

Re: "They're,"

I agree with one consequence of the entire Obama☭are mess:

Health ins. should be through the individual, not as a benefit provided by an employer.

Like auto or homeowner's ins., health care ins. should be between the individual and the ins. carrier.

Retirement savings should also not be dependent upon employment.

The Big Dog's back

Single Payer! Yes pooh, welcome aboard.

Contango

Re: "Single Payer!"

Not the same.

"Single payer" would be another collectivist political pyramid scheme - not insurance.

The Big Dog's back

They will never, ever own up to it coaster.

Coram Deo

Having membership within the organized church for over 40 years I cannot ever remember any pastor/priest/or reverend ever telling anyone how to vote or what candidate to vote for from the pulpit. In more evangelical churches some offer voter guides on how candidates on both sides of the aisle stand on the issues, again never telling anyone how to vote but to simply inform how the candidates stand or have voted on the important social/moral issues of the day.

I agree with the Jefferson quote that Contango submitted:

"The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate."

*And here all this time I thought The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was a song by Judy Collins.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R...

Truth or Dare

I guess we can thank the Supreme Court for ruling that Corporations are People. Big mistake, HUGE! On that note, Corporations such as Hobby Lobby and others that think like them, and all tax exempt churches that spend millions lobbying on Capitol Hill should be paying taxes. As a strong CHRISTIAN supporter of the separation of church and state, we can start with the large cathedral in D.C. that our politicians pretend to worship at. What's that cost us to fund? Care to learn more you may contact this organizations national headquarters:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State
1301 K St., N.W.
Suite 850, East Tower
Washington, D.C. 20005
Ph. (202) 466-3234
email; americansunited@au.org
website address; www.au.org

I am left with one question, do the employees of these companies contribute to their coverage? Regardless, I'm with the women that have been picketing on Capitol Hill and at many more statehouses, such as Columbus, Ohio. I know here in Ohio it will certainly have an effect as to who I will/won't be voting for. This and other issues of late coming out of Columbus.

Keep Corporate CEO's and bosses out of the bedroom! Hands off when it comes to our reproductive rights and our very personal healthcare choices!

Dr. Information

And for the morons that don't even understand the argument. It has nothing to do with birth control at all. It has to do with the morning after pill aka abortion pill.

We know you Dems love to kill babies doe.

Truth or Dare

Hey doc, you a man? Don't "love to kill babies". Have 3 of our own, which was enough for us. Call it being responsible. My hope, no one would ever be put into that position and who you trying to fool, as it isn't just the morning-after pill that is in question!

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