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Supreme Court: Hobby Lobby Can Refuse to Cover Birth Control

Web ExclusiveJune 30, 2014
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In a blow to women’s access to contraception, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Hobby Lobby, and similar closely held corporations with religious objections to birth control, can refuse to include birth control in their employee’s healthcare plans. Analysts are still interpreting the impact of the decision.

Watch our past coverage of the case above, when we interviewed Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The majority opinion in today’s ruling, was written by Justice Samuel Alito. He argued, “Under the standard that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.” Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote: “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Justice Elena Kagan added in a separate dissent: “Congress has made a judgment and Congress has given a statutory entitlement and that entitlement is to women and includes contraceptive coverage, and when an employer says, no, I don’t want to give that, that woman is quite directly, quite tangibly harmed.”

In a brief submitted to the court, the Guttmacher Institute noted many women cannot afford birth control and that the law would reduce abortions and unintended pregnancies. It also cited studies that show nearly 15 percent of birth control prescriptions are written for non-contraceptive purposes, and help some 1.5 million women with ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and endometrial cancer.

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