If a company's owners have a strong religious objection to some kinds of contraception, can they refuse to include coverage for those types of contraception in their employee health insurance plan?
The President's Affordable Care Act requires that large companies offer comprehensive health insurance to employees, including coverage for contraception. The administration has exempted religious groups from this requirement, but it has said that for-profit companies cannot be granted an exemption on religious grounds.
Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments from two Christian-owned companies that sued the government over the issue: Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties.
David and Barbara Green of Oklahoma own Hobby Lobby Stores, a chain of arts and crafts stores with more than fifteen thousand employees. The Greens do not discriminate in hiring — employees belong to different faiths, but they try to run their business in accordance with their Christian principles. They do not object to many kinds of birth control, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, sterilization surgery, and some types of birth control pills. But they do object to anything that would prevent an embryo from implanting, which they say would involve them in forms of abortion.
Lori Windham of the Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby told CBS News, "This case will decide whether a family gives up their religious freedom when they open a family business. The question here is whether the Green family can be forced to do something that violates their deeply held religious conviction as a consequence of the new health care law."
The Hahns, a Pennsylvania-based Mennonite family who own Conestoga Wood Specialities, share those objections to the contraception requirement of the Affordable Care Act.
Reproductive rights advocates argue that allowing businesses to pick and choose which contraception coverage to offer would violate employees' rights.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “Our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor. The president believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women.”
- Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Debates Contraception Requirement
- Jess Bravin, Supreme Court reporter for the Wall Street Journal. He tweets @JessBravin.
This segment aired on March 25, 2014.