November 26, 2013 — The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced it will hear challenges to the federal contraceptive coverage rules from arts-and-crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby and cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties, the AP/Washington Post reports (Barnes, AP/Washington Post, 11/26).
In hearing the cases, the high court will weigh whether corporations can exercise religious rights.
The contraceptive coverage rules require most for-profit, private businesses to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and many other companies challenging the requirement argue that it goes against their owners' personal religious beliefs and violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141), which "protects a person's exercise of religion."
The high court also will consider whether the First Amendment's free exercise clause may apply to for-profit businesses (Wolf, USA Today, 11/26).
Supreme Court expert Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog, said, "This case presents, front and center for the justices to decide, a question that's been open for a long time: Do companies, not just people and churches, have religious freedom?" (Williams, NBC News, 11/26). The cases likely will be heard in March, according to SCOTUSblog (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 11/26).
White House Responds
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday defended the administration's policy. "[A]s a general matter, our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor," he said in a statement, adding, "The president believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women."
Carney also noted, "The administration has already acted to ensure no church or similar religious institution will be forced to provide contraception coverage and has made a commonsense accommodation for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds."
"These steps protect both women's health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure that women and families -- not their bosses or corporate CEOs -- can make personal health decisions based on their needs and their budgets," he said (Politico Pro, 11/26).