The Stebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores case heard by Supreme Court on Tuesday may raise the questions of religious freedom. But it will also likely determine how women will acquire a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that guarantees no-cost prescription contraception in most health insurance plans.
The firm privately held for-profit company, Hobby Lobby’s owners, are Catholic who buy ads in newspapers on Easter recommending that people get to know Jesus Christ—feel that their right to worship freely is being denied by the Affordable Care Act.
The justices ruling on Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v Sebelius, will be concluding whether those companies, and potentially all other for-profit companies, must abide by the so-called contraceptive mandate by the end of this month.
The question is whether the organization refuses to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to employees this time. Can any religious person who owns a company refuse to pay for insurance that would cover any health-care procedure or device that he or she doesn’t believe in? What about for transplants, blood transfusions, vaccines, or psychological care?
So what is contraceptive mandate? The health law requires that most insurance plans provide preventive care services without out-of-pocket expense to beneficiaries. The Obama administration included all FDA-approved contraceptives as part of a package of preventive services for women.
Hobby Lobby Inc., a chain of 500 arts and crafts stores with 13,000 employees. The owners refuses to accept certain methods of birth control — IUDs and morning-after pills — because they can interfere with the creation of life once an egg is fertilized. But the Green family, which owns the nationwide Hobby Lobby, are evangelical Christians. And the Hahn family that owns Pennsylvania cabinet-maker Conestoga Wood Specialties are Mennonites. Both families already offer most forms of birth control as part of their health plans.
“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.
“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.
Hobby Lobby is accused of burdening its employees in claiming its exempt from some requirements of the health care law.
“This is an earned benefit, not a freebie. And it’s an earned benefit to which women contribute their share of the premium,” said former Clinton administration Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who filed a brief siding with the government.
Birth control will bring Obamacare back to the Supreme Court, but women’s access to reproductive health care, and particularly to abortion, has been under assault in state legislatures for several years now.
Justice Samuel Alito said, “In all the years RFRA has been on the books,” he asked, “has any of these claims involving minimum wage, for example, been brought and have they succeeded?”
“Very few of these claims have been brought,” responded Paul Clement, who argued Hobby Lobby’s case at the high court.