WASHINGTON — Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby won a major victory from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate, leaving the White House and congressional Democrats vowing to fill new gaps in health insurance coverage for some women.
In the most closely watched case of the high court’s term, the justices ruled 5-4 that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations to refuse coverage for contraceptives if they object to them on religious grounds.
Hobby Lobby’s victory came from the court’s conservative wing, which said the decision only applies to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act and didn’t mean all insurance mandates —including those for vaccinations or blood transfusions — could be avoided because of religious objections. Employers also couldn’t hide behind the ruling to discriminate illegally, the court said.
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The decision resolved two cases that were before the court together involving businesses privately held by Christian families: Hobby Lobby and an affiliated chain of Christian bookstores, controlled by David Green and his family, of Oklahoma City; and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet maker based in Pennsylvania.
The families say four of the contraceptives — including the so-called “morning after” pill and IUDs — can prevent a human embryo from being implanted in the womb, which they equate to abortion. They filed lawsuits against the federal government, contending the mandate forced them to violate the Christian beliefs by which they run their companies.
The Obama administration argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applied to individuals, not corporations, and that allowing health insurance exemptions on religious grounds could lead some companies to deny coverage of vaccinations and a range of medical procedures.
Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby, said Monday, “Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has reaffirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said the court “ruled against American women and families, giving bosses the right to discriminate against women and deny their employees access to birth control coverage. This is a deeply disappointing and troubling ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control.”
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