Claremore Daily Progress

State/Nation

March 25, 2014

Justices tackle health law birth control coverage

WASHINGTON —

Supreme Court justices are weighing whether corporations have religious rights that exempt them from part of the new health care law that requires coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge.

The case being argued at the Supreme Court on Tuesday involves family-owned companies that provide health insurance to their employees, but object to covering certain methods of birth control that they say can work after conception, in violation of their religious beliefs.

The Obama administration and its supporters say a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the businesses also could undermine laws governing immunizations, Social Security taxes and minimum wages.

Protesters on both sides gathered outside the court Tuesday as light snow fell on Washington. “Back off, boss,” went one refrain from administration backers. The companies’ supporters chanted, “My faith, my business.”

The justices have never before held that profit-making businesses have religious rights. But the companies in the Supreme Court case and their backers argue that a 1993 federal law on religious freedom extends to businesses as well as individuals.

Under the new health care law, health plans must offer a range of preventive services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

The largest company among them is Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., an Oklahoma City-based chain of more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states with more than 15,000 full-time employees. The company is owned by the Green family, evangelical Christians who say they run their business on biblical principles. The Greens also own the Mardel chain of Christian bookstores.

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