The Supreme Court has agreed to review two cases involving the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, setting up a high-profile showdown next year.
The decision to take up the challenge to the contraceptive mandate was expected. It will certainly reignite what has been a fierce debate over the provision of the federal health care law that requires employers to provide health insurance covering birth control and family-planning methods.
Hobby Lobby, a craft chain with about 13,000 employees, as well as at least 30 other for-profit companies, have filed lawsuits claiming that the mandate violates their religious beliefs and the First Amendment. They are suing under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Supreme Court is taking up suits brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.
Lower courts' decisions in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. were mixed. In June, the Denver federal appeals court, ruled that religious freedom "can be communicated by individuals and for-profit corporations alike ." A Philadelphia federal appeals court had ruled in July that "for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise."
The Obama administration is now seeking for the Supreme Court to reverse the Denver court's ruling.
The cases are expected to be taken up in the spring.
The White House released a statement on the Supreme Court taking up the case, from press secretary Jay Carney:
The health care law puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventive care, like cancer screenings and birth control, free of charge. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider a legal challenge to the health care law’s requirement that for-profit corporations include birth control coverage in insurance available to their employees. We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women’s health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.
We do not comment on specifics of a case pending before the Court. As a general matter, 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. The Administration has already acted to ensure no church or similar religious institution will be forced to provide contraception coverage and has made a commonsense accommodation for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds. These steps protect both women’s health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure that women and families — not their bosses or corporate CEOs —c an make personal health decisions based on their needs and their budgets.
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