The Supreme Court will decide whether the Obamacare contraception mandate can be forced on employers. According to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which was largely upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012, contraception must be included by insurance policies. Religiously affiliated non-profit businesses such as Catholic hospitals are currently exempted from the contraception mandate. For-profit businesses are still required to fund contraception.
Two Christian-owned companies are challenging the requirement to provide contraception under the insurance plan: Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. (an arts and crafts chain run by the Green family out of Oklahoma) and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. (a wood cabinet manufacturer from Pennsylvania owned by the Hahn family). In the lower courts, Hobby Lobby won its suit while Conestoga lost. Both do not oppose all contraception, but object to the methods that kill a fertilized embryo.
On Nov. 26, the Supreme Court justices merged the two opposing rulings into one argument and will hear the cases in spring of 2014. A decision is expected to be reached by June. As Jess Bryan of the Wall Street Journal notes, if successful the challenge could expand First Amendment rights pertaining to freedom of speech and religion that are held by businesses.
The White House commented that the requirement for for-profit companies to provide birth control “is lawful and essential to women’s health.” Contraception has already been used as an election issue by Democrats and they are returning to it as a key strategy in the 2014 elections, according to an article by Irin Carmon of MSNBC.
In a press call featuring Democratic female congressmen and senators, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) said, “for women, contraception isn’t a matter of ideology, it’s a matter of health.” Senator Barbara Boxer (Calf) said, “if this court is really about what it’s supposed to be about, standing up for individual rights, they will back the individual rights of the employee to make decisions about their health care. What if your boss believes you should just pray your way to health.”
“Real health care respects life,” said Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, in a press release. “Whether the issue is punishing Americans for their beliefs, pushing life-ending drugs that have been deceptively labeled as contraception, or creating new income streams for the abortion industry, the anti-life implications of Obamacare are far-reaching.”
“A government that forces any citizen to participate in immoral acts – like the use of abortion drugs – under threat of crippling fines is a government everyone should fear,” said David Cortman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
There are at least 84 lawsuits against the birth control mandate.