The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of three family-owned businesses Monday, saying they can refuse to pay for certain forms of contraception.
At issue is the requirement under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that all health insurance policies include birth control.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on that for-profit employers with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare.
“We doubt that the Congress that enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] — or, for that matter, ACA – would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.
Three families – the owners of Hobby Lobby, a Mennonite family who owns Conestoga woodworking and the owners of a Christian bookstore – sued the government, objecting to the birth control mandate on religious grounds.
“The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients,” Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price — as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Today's decision is further proof that Obamacare represents one of the greatest governmental overreaches in our nation's history,” Perry said in a statement. “Religious freedom is an intrinsic part of being American, and the Supreme Court's decision reaffirms that the government cannot mandate that anyone operate in a fashion counter to their most deeply-felt principles."
The Obama administration and its supporters said a ruling in favor of the companies would allow employers who say they have religious objections to vaccinations or even blood transfusions.
Alito’s decision answers this concern, saying the ruling applies only to contraception.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the majority ruling amounts to the court deciding which religious beliefs are worthy: “…how does the Court divine which religious beliefs are worthy of accommodation, and which are not?” she asked.
The candidates running to replace Perry as Texas governor had their own statements to make as well.
“Today’s ruling is a major victory for religious freedom and another blow to the heavy-handed way the Obama Administration has tried to force the misguided Obamacare law on Americans,” said Greg Abbott, current attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate. “Once again, the Supreme Court has stricken down an overreaching regulation by the Obama Administration—and once again Obamacare has proven to be an illegal intrusion into the lives of so many Americans across the country.”
However, Abbott’s Democratic opponent was not happy with the ruling.
"Today's disappointing decision to restrict access to birth control puts employers between women and their doctors. We need to trust women to make their own healthcare decisions – not corporations, the Supreme Court, or Greg Abbott," Davis said.