Back in 2012, Obamacare went before the U.S. Supreme Court over the constitutional aspect of the individual mandate. Now, there is a new constitutional challenge to the law and it is related to birth control.
A provision of the ACA requires for-profit employers of certain size to offer insurance benefits for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay. At issue is where certain companies can opt off of this mandate based on the claim that it would violate their owners’ long-established personal beliefs. The provision is being appealed in two cases that are being heard together.
Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby have filed the appeals based on their corporate desire to operate in harmony with biblical principles while competing in a secular marketplace, which includes their public stance against abortion. Side note: churches and houses of worship are exempt from the contraception mandate. And other nonprofit, religiously affiliated groups must offer the coverage or have a third party insurers provide separate benefits, without the employers direct involvement.
These for-profit religious-based exemption cases have been battling for some time. Three federal appeals courts have struck down the contraception coverage rule, while two others have upheld it. This split ruling made its U.S. Supreme Court hearing almost a certainity.
The 1993 federal law, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is a key issue for the court. This law requires that the government seek the “least burdensome” and narrowly tailored means for any law that interferes with religious convictions. The question most likely to be posed is that can companies, churches and universities be included or do the protections only apply to individuals.
This case is sure to get a lot of attention from both sides of the Obamacare debate. The court is hearing arguments now and a decision is expected in late June.