WASHINGTON (AP/WWJ) – A family-owned chain of arts-and-craft stores doesn’t have to follow the new Obamacare requirement to provide contraceptive coverage.
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld Hobby Lobby’s objection to the coverage under religious grounds. The justices ruled that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
The 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.
“I definitely think it’s a blow to women’s health,” Oakland University Bio Ethics professor Jason Wasserman told WWJ Newsradio 950. “…And, you know, as we all know — historically and contemporaneously… the ability to manage contraception has been an importnt feature of women’s health and women’s autonomy; so I think it’s certainly a blow to that.”
Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said the decision is limited to contraceptives under the health care law; and the court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners, like Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby that challenged the provision.
“In terms of the sort of widespread social impact, I’m not sure that it’s going to have as widespread a social impact as many people assume, because this ruling does not say that all corporations can opt out of these kinds of things,” Wasserman said.
“The ruling said that it’s closely held corporations,” he explained, “which doesn’t include publicly held companies, obviously, or even companies presumably — although this may have to be challenged — companies that are held be, sort of, conglomerates of people.”
In the opinion, Alito suggested two ways the administration could ensure women get the contraception they want. It 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, the groups’ insurers or a third-party administrator takes on the responsibility of paying for the birth control.
The accommodation is the subject of separate legal challenges, but the court said Monday that the profit-seeking companies could not assert religious claims in such a situation.
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