LOS ANGELES (AP/CBSLA.com) — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday issued a key ruling 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 justices’ 5-4 decision (PDF) 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.
Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.
UC Irvine Law School Dean Irwin Chemerinsky told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that while the high court ruling only applies to so-called “closely held” corporations who are under the control of a few people – like the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-craft stores that challenged the provision – the court went to lengths what such businesses look like.
“Hobby Lobby operates in 42 states, it employs 28,000 people,” Chemerinsky said. “It’s small only in the sense that it’s owned by a family and that it’s not a publicly traded corporation.”
Nearly 50 businesses have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like those involved in the Supreme Court case, are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized. Other companies object to paying for any form of birth control.
There are separate lawsuits challenging the contraception provision from religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities.
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered such coverage before the health care law required it.
KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports Angelenos appeared largely divided over the ruling, with some people saying employers should not have the choice as to whether to provide birth control for female employees, while others remained staunchly opposed.
“I don’t think that’s fair at all, ’cause that’s the owner’s opinion,” said one woman.
“I don’t think employers should have to provide for contraceptives,” another woman said.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) issued the following statement in response to the ruling: “While I am relieved that the Hobby Lobby ruling was narrow, I still cannot understand how the Court’s majority could put the ideology of closely-held corporations above the health and religious freedom of thousands and thousands of their female employees.”
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. The court’s four liberal justices dissented.
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