JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama stands with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (L) as he announces that religious employers will not be mandated to offer free contraceptive coverage for workers at the White house in Washington, DC, February 10, 2012.
The Supreme Court today agreed to hear two legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act dealing with whether companies can refuse to pay for coverage of contraceptive drugs that violate the religious beliefs of the companies’ owners.
In taking on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, the Court will weigh if corporations have the same First Amendment rights and religious liberties as individual citizens.
The Affordable Care Act mandates that most employers pay for a range of contraceptives—including the so-called morning-after-pill, which some consider “abortion-inducing.” Most religious organizations were exempted from this requirement after Catholic bishops objected, but that exemption does not cover private, for-profit companies with religious owners.
Oral arguments will be held in March, and a decision is expected in June.
Should companies have the right to operate according to religious convictions? Or should they be required to provide a full range of coverage to employees? Does this challenge to the Affordable Care Act present even more problems for President Obama’s beleaguered health care law?
Greg Stohr, Supreme Court reporter, Bloomberg News