Washington (AFP) – The U.S. Supreme Court said it will address the question of whether a firm can use religious grounds to limit the availability of birth control on its health plan.
The court’s nine justices announced they would hear arguments, probably in March or April, in two cases between the U.S. government and firms that object to purchasing health coverage covering certain contraceptive methods.
In the first case, President Barack Obama’s administration is challenging the refusal of Hobby Lobby Stores to underwrite coverage for certain contraceptive methods.
“The President believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women,” the White House said in a statement shortly after the Supreme Court decision.
The Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain says it manages its business “in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”
Joined by the religious bookstore Mardel, Hobby Lobby has refused to abide by the new health care law’s requirement that it provide health insurance coverage for four methods of contraception (two abortive pills and two types of IUDs), or pay a fine.
The chain has not challenged other methods agreed to by the federal government — contraceptive pills, diaphragms and other barrier methods — but it objects to the four specific methods on grounds they are in its view
comparable to abortion.
In a brief filed with the court, the company argued that “by providing insurance coverage for contraceptives that could prevent a human embryo from implanting in the uterus, they themselves would be morally complicit in ‘the death of [an] embryo.’”
A federal appeals court agreed, ruling that the legal requirement was counter to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
The Obama health care law exempted churches and other religious organizations from having to provide coverage for birth control.