Court: Religious rights trump birth control rule

First time high court has ruled businesses can hold religious views
Associated Press
Jul 1, 2014

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

The justices' 5-4 decision, splitting conservatives and liberals, means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under the health insurance plans of objecting companies.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, over a dissent from the four liberal justices, that forcing companies to pay for methods of women's contraception to which they object violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the ruling is limited and there are ways for the administration to ensure women get the birth control they want.

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the decision creates health risks for women, and he said Congress should take action to make sure they get coverage.

"President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them," Earnest said. "Today's decision jeopardizes the health of the women who are employed by these companies."

Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that Obama signed in 2010.

Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal Supreme Court vote that saved the law in the midst of Obama's campaign for re-election. On Monday, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety, holding in favor of the religious rights of closely held corporations, like the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-craft stores that challenged the contraceptives provision.

Hobby Lobby is among roughly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like the two involved in the Supreme 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.

But Monday's ruling would apply more broadly to other companies that do not want to pay for any of the 20 birth control methods and devices that have been approved by federal regulators.

Alito said the decision is limited to contraceptives. "Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs," he said.

He suggested two ways the administration could deal with the birth control issue. The government could simply pay for pregnancy prevention, he said. Or it could provide the same kind of accommodation it has made available to religious-oriented, not-for-profit corporations.

Those groups can tell the government that providing the coverage violates their religious beliefs. At that point, creating a buffer, their insurer or a third-party administrator takes on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other provisions of the health care law.

That accommodation is the subject of separate legal challenges, and the court said Monday that profit-seeking companies could not assert religious claims in such a situation.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was part of the majority, also wrote separately to say the administration can solve its problem easily. "The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it," Kennedy said. He said that arrangement "does not impinge on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs."

Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.

In a dissent she read aloud from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision "potentially sweeping" because it minimizes the government's interest in uniform compliance with laws affecting the workplace. "And it discounts the disadvantages religion-based opt-outs impose on others, in particular, employees who do not share their employer's religious beliefs," Ginsburg said.

Leaders of women's rights groups blasted the decision by "five male justices," in the words of Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The administration said 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 pointed 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.

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

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.

Most working women will probably see no impact from the ruling, corporate health benefits consultants expect. Publicly traded companies are unlikely to inject religion into their employee benefit plans, said Mark Holloway, director of compliance services at the Lockton Companies, an insurance broker that serves medium-sized and growing employers.

"Most employers view health insurance as a tool to attract and retain employees," said Holloway. "Women employees want access to contraceptive coverage, and most employers don't have a problem providing that coverage. It is typically not a high-cost item."

It is unclear how many women potentially are affected by the high court ruling. Hobby Lobby is by far the largest employer of any company that has gone to court to fight the birth control provision.

The company has more than 15,000 full-time employees in more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states. Hobby Lobby is owned by the family of David Green, evangelical Christians who also own Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain.

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

 

Comments

Contango

The idea of businesses providing health and welfare benefits to employees is an unintended consequence of FDR's fascistic wartime wage and price controls.

Now not unexpectedly, the current fascists want it mandated with all the bells and whistles.

Health ins. should be like auto or home owners insurance - purchased individually.

Watch as employers eliminate their health and welfare benefit plans and dump their employees on the state and Obama☭are health care exchanges.

Licorice Schtick

Hobby Lobby hypocritically claims to be defending their religious freedom but the truth is they seized an opportunity to force their beliefs on others.

Will a business owned by a Jehovah's Witness be permitted to deny blood transfusions to employees?

If religious-based exemption from the law is a right of ownership, what if there are two owners who disagree? ten? Does a single stockholder of a publicly-held corporation who objects to birth control have his rights violated if the company provides it? Of course not.

This is a partisan decision by a corrupt, partisan court, based on preference, not principle. The outcome is absurd.

Contango

Re: "the truth is they seized an opportunity to force their beliefs on others."

So better for the central planning leftists to force their socio-economic philosophy on everyone?

Sour grapes: If the decision was 5-4 AGAINST HL, you'd be cheering and gloating.

SCOTUS - 1

Obama☭are - 0

Licorice Schtick

Your reply has nothing to do with what I wrote.

Obamacare ain't ☭ommunism. Obamacare makes corporation pay for healthcare. With communism, there are no corporations.

Your derision of Obamacare, or any sort of national health care, over and over and over again, depends on your "leftist" hyperbole, but there's plenty of centrist support, too. Opposition to national health care depends completely on Oligarchy by greedy selfish people, obstructionism, and corruption of the democratic election system with money.

Contango

Re:"Obamacare ain't ☭ommunism."

Some parts are fascistic some are communistic.

Enjoy whatever Marxist flavor you desire. It doesn't work.

Contango

Re: "national health care,"

The first modern national health and welfare programs were enacted under autocrat Otto von Bismarck.

Nice model for lefty looney programs?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ott...

grumpy

Re: "Will a business owned by a Jehovah's Witness be permitted to deny blood transfusions to employees?"

No. At most they would not have to pay for insurance for blood transfusions for anyone who is covered by their company health insurance. They have no ability to control what healthcare any of their employees receive. They can only have a say in what they pay for insurance, if the courts find in their favor... if it would ever even become a case. I have no clue if a closely held company is owned by a devout JW that wants to restrict his company paid health insurance... do you? If and when such a case is brought we will see what happens, anything that anyone here would claim is what I would consider a guess.

CommonsenseNow

Nice.

freespeech1

Very misleading headline there SR. You make it seem as if all birth control is being eliminated. Just abortion inducing drugs is all this has too do with. Hobby Lobby still offers numerous forms of birth control to its employees. Those are not in jeopardy. The left has been trying to spin this so bad its almost comical. Once again King Obama has been beotch slapped by the SCOTUS!!

anthras

In lieu of talking about the war on women what about the war on men? Obama feels the ladies should have free drugs no deductibles so they can have a good sex life and maybe kill a few unborn babies if needed but I still have to pay a deductible to get my clopidogrel a drug that my cardiologists advises is essential to keep my heart healthy as I did have a myocardial infraction. Well maybe Obama feels a woman's sex life is more important than my life.

Contango

Re: "good sex life"

As in: Scr*w anyone and anything and don't worry about the consequences, 'someone' else will help pay for it regardless of the results.

U.S. - The politics of victimology

Licorice Schtick

Fancy expensive (formerly) patented drug clopidogrel ("Plavix") ain't much better than aspirin, if at all. Now that the patent's run out and cheap generics are available, the pill pushers are moving on to other quackery.

meowmix

You are an absolute fool anthras! Do you honestly think that birth control is all about having a good sex life??????? Keep taking your clopidogrel and while you're at it, get your Viagra prescription filled eh?

anthras

meowmix, If birth control does not pertain to sex life would you please advise me what it does pertain to?

Also you are attempting to judge me and being presumptuous as actually I do not need Viagra at this time maybe some day but not now in lieu my mild myocardial infraction I am very active and healthy.

Contango

Re: "mild myocardial infraction,"

Having sexual intercourse is an option, having a functioning heart is not.

Agree with most if not all of your argument.

Licorice Schtick

Yes, solid point. But does it follow that national health care should pay only for what keeps you from dying, not what makes you healthier?

Regarding whether contraception for women is just to improve their sex life; No.

In some cultures more than others, women are pressured into sex whether they want it or not. Contraception gives control over whether it results in pregnancy.

The use of "the pill" for health benefits that neither provide contraception nor improve sex life have nothing do with this discussion.

Contango

Re: "In some cultures,"

Thought the subject was the U.S.? Off-topic.

meowmix

The Pill isn't just for birth control! It can also protect against certain life-threatening cancers, plus help relieve some painful period symptoms. It provides PMS relief, endometriosis relief it, taking them can result in less painful menstral cycles.

Oh, but you're a man--surely you knew all of this already right? Plus, what kind of woman would rather take a pill than deal with the full of what womanhood offers us up every month??? Now, you go sit down, put your wittle feeties up before you have another "mild" INFARCTION!!! Geez, got the deadly disease and can't even spell it...ya big puss

jazzbo

WOW , Meow !!!

meowmix

lololol jazzbo! (and hell, I'm not even on my period!!!) :})

Licorice Schtick

What happens then? Do you get even more sexist? Or just more sarcastic?

Contango

Re: "The Pill,"

Not to worry, when the leftist loonies finally get their single payer (FREE) health ins. - EVERYONE will get what they want, when they want it, right? :)

Licorice Schtick

The Medicare model, if imperfect, is pretty good. The model is to pay for what's essential and cost-effective. If you want more, you can pay yourself. Medicare delivers a lot of bang for the buck. What we really need is Medicare for Everyone, because we already know how to do it, but that would disrupt the parasitic health insurance industry, even more than Obamacare did.

Contango

Re: "The Medicare model, if imperfect, is pretty good."

An estimated $60-100 billion annually is lost in Medicare and Medicaid through waste, fraud and abuse.

"Pretty good model"? lol

Babo

Peanuts compared to the fraud, waste and abuse in legal and lobbying industries, military industrial complex, and public contracts in general. Not to mention the excessive profits by huge insurance companies for "paper work".

Contango

Re: "huge insurance companies for "paper work".

Little "paper work" with Medicare and Medicaid which leads to tens of billions in fraud and abuse - it's called:

Pay and chase.

The dumbed-down BIG govt. lover answer: Hire more bureaucrats. lol

ladydye_5

Birth control pills are used for a variety of other medical conditions. I use it to help balance hormones and migraines. It keeps the hormones at a constant level which in turn keeps the migraines creeping in during a drop in hormones. There are many things that birth control can help with that has nothing to do with having sex.

Donegan

They did not outlaw birth control. They just do not want to pay for plan B and medicinal abortions.

ladydye_5

I realize that. I was answering a remark that birth control was only for having a good sex life.

Nemesis

"You are an absolute fool anthras! Do you honestly think that birth control is all about having a good sex life??????? "

It is in this and the general case. In this case, the only products they don't cover are abortifacients which are completely about avoiding consequences of a good sex life. In the more general case, all the alternative uses you mention are off-label applications and were covered before the ACA mandate.

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