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Justices seem divided on health law’s contraceptive rule

Hobby Lobby objected to a health-care rule that large employers provide comprehensive contraception coverage.
Hobby Lobby objected to a health-care rule that large employers provide comprehensive contraception coverage.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON — In an argument that touched on medical science and moral philosophy, the Supreme Court on Tuesday wrestled with whether corporations may refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their workers based on the religious beliefs of the corporations’ owners.

The court seemed ready to accept that at least some for-profit corporations may advance claims based on religious freedom. But the justices appeared divided along ideological lines over whether the objections before it, based on a requirement in President Obama’s health care law, should succeed.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who probably holds the decisive vote, asked questions helpful to both sides. He appeared skeptical that the two family-controlled companies that objected to the contraception coverage requirement were burdened by the law, as they could cease providing health insurance at all. He also expressed solicitude for “the rights of the employees.”

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