In the ongoing litigation monster known as Obamacare, a big question that’s been sitting unanswered is whether or not privately owned companies are required to provide health insurance that covers birth control. Specifically, two companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, claimed that providing insurance that covered the morning after pill was tantamount to requiring them to pay for abortions. The answer, handed down in a 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court today, is a resounding no, they don’t.
The companies argued that they were, and they said the coverage requirement imposed a “substantial burden” on religious practices by subjecting Hobby Lobby, for instance, to fines of $1.3 million a day if it chose not to offer comprehensive coverage, and to different fines of $26 million a year if it stopped offering insurance entirely.
The companies said they had no objection to other forms of contraception, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery.
The government claimed that any religious exemption from the law applied to individuals, not companies:
The Obama administration said it did not question the sincerity of the companies’ beliefs, and it has offered exemptions to other groups on such grounds.
But the administration said that for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood must comply with the law or face fines.
The Supreme Court ruled that religious exemptions did, in fact, apply to companies in certain limited circumstances and exempted Hobby Lobby from having to provide birth control which violates the religious beliefs of the company’s ownership. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said the following:
“Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law…the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates their religious beliefs.”
The full decision including the minority’s dissent is linked here.