WASHINGTON (March 25, 2014) The U.S. Supreme Court seemed divided Tuesday over whether employers' religious beliefs can free them from a part of the new health care law that requires that they provide coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge.
The court is wrestling with the question in a case that involves two family-owned companies.
The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties provide health insurance to their employees, but object to covering certain methods of birth control, coverage that is required under the health care law.
They companies say contraceptives that work after conception violate their religious beliefs.
The outcome could ultimately turn on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voiced concerns during the 90-minute arguments Tuesday about the rights of female employees, as well as the rights of business owners.
At one point he questioned what rights women would have if their employers required them to wear conservative Islamic robes.
Later in the argument he seemed troubled about how the logic of the government's argument would apply to abortions.
The three women on the court questioned whether blood transfusions and vaccinations would be subject to the same religious objections if the court ruled in favor of the businesses.
Chief Justice John Roberts at one point suggested the court could limit its ruling to apply to family owned companies.
The Obama administration and its supporters say a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the businesses could undermine laws governing immunizations, Social Security taxes and minimum wages.