Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Contraceptive Coverage Mandate in Health Care Law

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday the Supreme Court agree to hear a case based on the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The question at stake is whether employers can refuse to provide their employees with mandated contraceptives if the employers have religious objections to contraceptives.

Supreme Court justices have agreed to review two cases that brought forth opposite decisions in the lower courts. The cases pose “complex questions about religious freedom and equality for female workers, along with an issue the court has not yet confronted: whether secular, for-profit corporations are excepted by the Constitution or federal statute from complying with a law because of their owners’ religious beliefs.”

The two cases will be combined for oral arguments to the Supreme Court to be heard possibly in March 2014.  The two cases are Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found that Pennsylvania based company Conestoga Wood Specialties, run by a Mennonite family, must comply with the mandate. The 3rd Circuit deemed there was “‘total absence of case law’ to support the argument that corporations are protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.”

“Even if we were to disregard the lack of historical recognition of the right, we simply cannot understand how a for-profit, secular corporation — apart from its owners — can exercise religion,” Circuit Judge Robert E. Cowen wrote.

In the case of Hobby Lobby, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said “forcing the company to comply with the contraceptive mandate would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law providing special protections for religious expression.” In their divided opinion, the 10th Circuit “relied in part on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which said corporations have political speech rights just as individuals do in spending on elections.”

“We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote for the majority.

Corporations are not people. Women’s healthcare choices should not be impeeded by an employers objection to a law that provides essential healthcare options to their female employees.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday that a woman’s birth-control choices should be 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.”

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the announcement that the Supreme Court would consider the two cases:

No woman should have her health care dictated to her by her boss. The overwhelming majority of American women use birth control to stay healthy and plan their families. This is basic access to health care and a decision that belongs to a woman, to be made in consultation with her doctor, not her employer.

“This isn’t just a health care issue, it is an economic issue. The decision to require insurance policies to cover full preventive care saves many women and their families hundreds of dollars each year. If the Supreme Court rules against this policy that is supported by the majority of Americans, it would expose other medical procedures to the whims of an employer, such as vaccines, surgeries and mental health care.

“We respect the religious views of employers but they should not be allowed to impose these views on their employees. That is why I fully expect the Supreme Court to side with the American people.”

Corporations with religious business practices must still follow U.S. EEOC guidelines which deem it “illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy).” To limit some employees (womens) healthcare benefits due to the religious beliefs of the corporation or it’s founders or board is a practice of discrimination.

To argue religious freedom for corporations just smacks of all types of further discrimination cases that could fall into this corporate personhood issue compounded by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

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