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8-Member Supreme Court Hears Key Birth Control Case

HeadlineMar 23, 2016

The now-eight-member Supreme Court has deadlocked in a 4-4 tie for the first time since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month. The tie left intact the decision of a lower appeals court in a bankruptcy case. Senate Republicans have vowed to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. This comes as the court is set to hear arguments today in a case concerning birth control coverage under Obama’s signature healthcare law. The Obama administration has already exempted churches and other houses of worship from a rule requiring employer health plans to provide birth control coverage to employees without a copay. For religiously affiliated nonprofits, they simply need to notify the health insurer or the government that they object to providing birth control coverage, at which point the government takes over and the nonprofit has no further role. But a number of nonprofits said the mere act of communicating their objection would make them complicit in providing contraception, and therefore violate their religious freedom. If the court deadlocks in the case, it would leave intact appeals court rulings that have largely supported the birth control mandate.

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