The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.
The decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty.
The coverage requirement was challenged by two corporations whose owners say they try to run their businesses on religious principles: Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which makes wood cabinets.
The health care law and related regulations require many employers to provide female workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for a variety of methods of contraception. The companies objected to some of the methods, saying they are tantamount to abortion because they can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb. Providing insurance coverage for those forms of contraception would, the companies said, make them complicit in the practice.
The companies said they had no objection to other forms of contraception, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery.
The Obama administration said it did not question the sincerity of the companies’ beliefs, and it has offered exemptions to other groups on such grounds.
A federal judge has estimated that a third of Americans are not subject to the requirement that their employers provide coverage for contraceptives. Small employers need not offer health coverage at all; religious employers like churches are exempt; religiously affiliated groups may claim an exemption; and some insurance plans that had not previously offered the coverage are grandfathered in.
SOURCE: ADAM LIPTAK
The New York Times