The continuous intense debate over different aspects of the embattled health care reform law will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future due to a disagreement involving mandatory provision of contraceptives, which some say is in conflict with “religious liberty.”
The justices came to an agreement on Tuesday to consider and examine provisions in the Affordable Care Act requiring business owners with a particular number of employees to provide insurance coverage for birth control and other reproductive health care services and not require a co-pay.
Many claim that private companies should have the right to refuse to follow this provision on the basis that it goes against their religious beliefs. Oral arguments will likely begin in March with a possible decision by late June.
There have been nearly 50 lawsuits filed from various companies that challenge the birth control provision in the Affordable Health Care law (more commonly known as “Obamacare”). From its introduction, this law has met much criticism.
Last year, the Supreme Court voted to keep in place the key funding aspect of this embattled health care law. Although it was a narrow decision, it was a pivotal ruling because of the affirmation that most United States citizens would be mandated to either buy health insurance or pay a financial penalty. The constitutional battle now moves to a discussion as to whether or not employers are having their First Amendment rights violated.
So far, five courts have reviewed the rule on contraception coverage. Three of them have ruled against it while the remaining two have upheld it. This type of split makes it more probable for a Supreme Court review.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review two suits involving for-profit corporations. One of those is Hobby Lobby, Inc., a nationwide chain of about 500 arts and crafts stores.
The owners, David Green and family, claim their Christian principles are in direct conflict with portions of the law and its requirements for comprehensive coverage. One of the medications that would be provided, according to the Greens, prevents human embryos from being placed in a womb. To the Greens, this is on the same level as abortion.
The Green family makes it clear that they do not have a problem with the provision of other forms of birth control, including condoms or diaphragms, for their close to 13,000 employees. The Greens also say that those employees represent many faiths and not just Christians.
Kyle Duncan is a lawyer for Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and also lead counsel for Hobby Lobby. Duncan calls the Supreme Court decision to review this a significant step for the Green family and Hobby Lobby and an important move in the “fight for American’s religious liberty.”
The White House issued a statement on Tuesday that, in their mind, the contraceptive provision is “lawful and essential to women’s health” and added that they were “confident the Supreme Court will agree.”
Recently, the Supreme Court was asked to review this particular issue by a private Christian university located in Virginia. However, the court decided not to hear that appeal and did not give an explanation for the denial.
Supporters of the health care law say it does not require owners of individual companies to provide coverage that they might find objectionable. Rather, the law places that requirement on businesses that operate on the corporate level.
It is expected by many pundits that when the embattled health care law goes before the Supreme Court again, it will be a very close vote regardless of which direction it takes.
By Rick Hope