Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that closely held corporations with religious objections are not required to provide birth control coverage for employees.
On Monday, the justices ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Monday, saying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage mandate is a violation of religious liberty. More than 90 percent of all businesses in the United States are closely held corporations, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Under the ACA contraceptive mandate, for-profit employers were required to provide women with health insurance plans that provided free contraception coverage.
The Court sided with Hobby Lobby in their argument that the contraceptive mandate violates The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law that that the government cannot impose a “substantial burden” on the exercise of religion unless it is the least restrictive way of promoting that interest. While the justices’ decision maintains that providing women with access to contraceptive coverage is indeed an important government interest, it rules that the contraceptive mandate is not the least restrictive way of meeting it.
“The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients,” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount toa substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”
Hobby Lobby also argued the mandate violates their religious beliefs, which are protected under the First Amendment. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religious or prohibiting the exercise thereof.” Contraceptives such as “the morning after pill” are not supported by many religious institutions.
According to SCOTUSBlog legal analysis team, the Obama administration is likely to cover the people left out of coverage under this decision.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy proposed that the government could pay for the coverage itself during the hearing.
Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas ruled in favor of the Hobby Lobby. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan filed dissenting opinions.