The United States Supreme Court has delivered its ruling determining that some for-profit corporations with religious objections can refuse to provide employees coverage for contraceptives.
Although providing coverage for contraceptives was included as a portion of the federal government’s recent health care reform laws, two private companies with religious affiliation challenged the laws for contradicting their beliefs regarding abortion. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties were the two challengers who are now celebrating a victory in the nation’s highest court.
According to ABC News, the decision was determined in a 5-4 ruling, with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing the dissent.
The ruling includes language that specifies how corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are now exempt from providing such coverage under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
“As applied to closely held corporations the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA,” a portion of the ruling reads. “RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for profit corporations like Conestoga and Hobby Lobby.”
As the New York Times notes, many employers were made exempt from providing contraceptive coverage during the initial health care reform. Small employers, religious employers, religiously affiliated groups and grandfathered insurance plans were all ways in which the law mandating coverage for contraceptives was avoided. For-profit corporations, however, were previously forced to comply or face hefty fines.
The main portion of the Affordable Care Act, which Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties opposed, was the mandate that the companies provide coverage for contraceptives such as the “morning-after pill,” which they claim are close to abortion because they block embryos from implanting in the womb. Other contraceptives, such as condoms, diaphragms and some types of birth control pills, were not an issue for the companies involved in the case.
Although the ruling is specific to a small group of companies operating on religious grounds, it represents the ability of individuals to challenge the government’s already controversial Affordable Care Act on the basis of religious freedom (rather than it remaining a public health issue). Whether or not more challenges to specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act make their way through the nation's justice system remains to be seen, but opponents of the law are certainly celebrating this small yet significant victory.