NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In a significant ruling by the Supreme Court, privately held or family companies can refuse birth control coverage based on religious beliefs.
It was a stunning blow to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and a huge victory for privately held and or family-owned companies.
The land’s highest court ruled Monday that employers that hold religious objections can refuse to foot the bill for birth control for their female employees, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“I think it’s a very good decision,” Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said.
The 5-4 ruling in the so-called “Hobby Lobby” case upheld the right of the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby craft stores — 600 nationwide — to opt out of provisions of Obamacare that mandates free birth control.
Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama’s campaign for re-election.
On Monday, dealing with a small sliver of the law, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. The court’s four liberal justices dissented.
The court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners.
Alito also said the decision is limited to contraceptives under the health care law.
“Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs,” Alito said.
Hobby Lobby, whose owners are evangelical Christians, objected to having to pay for contraception like the morning after pill and the intrauterine device – IUD — which they view as tantamount to abortion.
“Religious liberty is at stake. Let me give you an example: if we were to tell Muslims and Jews that pork is good to eat, the government could decide you should eat pork because it’s good for your health. Could we force them to do something that is against their religious tenet? I don’t think so,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
But women’s groups are furious, saying that women who work for such companies may be forced to make decisions about birth control based on cost and not the best interests of their health.
“Here in the year 2014 it is very frustrating to still be fighting for access to birth control, which should be considered a basic preventative health care. So this ruling was very disappointing to us,” said Joan Malin of Planned Parenthood.
The ruling leaves President Obama with the task of finding another way to provide free birth control to women who work for such companies, maybe even amending the law to have the government pick up the tab, Kramer reported.
“We are still assessing the decision, so it is too early for me to state what kind of action would be available to the president or what kind of action he would even consider at this point,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
The White House said it hoped Congress would take steps to mitigate the problem, but getting the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass a bill allowing the government to pay for free birth control might be a very tall order — since many Republicans want Obamacare overturned.
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