On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that closely held, for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption to the Obamacare requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for birth control.
The court’s limited ruling, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was 5-4 and does not appear to open the door to other types of religious-exemption claims by companies.
If you recall, for-profit corporations — including Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of arts and crafts stores founded on Biblical principles — had challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act requiring companies with more than 50 employees to cover preventive care services, which include such contraceptives as morning-after pills, diaphragms, and IUDs.
Monday’s ruling was a clear win for Hobby Lobby and companies with similar objections to the contraceptive requirement.
The companies often argue that contraceptives destroy human life by interfering with a fertilized egg, which in turn, violates their religious beliefs.
A principle issue for the Supreme Court was whether a for-profit corporation can claim that its religious freedom allows it to be exempt from a law.
The Obama administration argued that the freedom of religion applies only to the company owners individually, not to the for-profit corporations they run. It’s the corporations, not the family members themselves, who are required to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives under Obamacare, the government said.
The companies were among more than three dozen for-profit corporations that challenged the contraceptive mandate in federal courthouses nationwide. Hobby Lobby prevailed in the lower courts.
The companies relied not only on the Constitution but also on a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the federal government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” even if the burden results from a general law intended to apply to everyone.
This is the second time in a week that a ruling has limited women’s reproductive rights. On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts, saying it violates the First Amendment.
To read more on Hobby Lobby’s win, click here.