WASHINGTON (June 30, 2014) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the Affordable Care Act requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
The justices' 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law, and it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.
Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.
Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion,said the administration could now simply pay for pregnancy prevention itself or it could arrange for insurance companies or third-party administrators to take over the responsibility of paying for the birth control.
Among the justices in the majority was Chief Justice John Roberts who, two years ago, cast the pivotal vote to save the health care law.
Monday he sided with the four justices who would have struck down the entire law.
In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court discounted the disadvantages that would be faced by employees who don't share the religious beliefs of their employers.
The White House said the ruling with jeopardize women’s health.
Women should make personal health decisions for themselves, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.
Earnest said the White House is looking into how many women could be affected by the decision and said Congress should take action to assist women the decision affects.
U.S. Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, however, praised the ruling.
“Today’s decision is a victory against Obamacare’s unprecedented overreach into our daily lives and the Administration’s disregard for the freedom of religion that Americans cherish. All Texans and Americans have the right to practice their religious beliefs without obstruction from the federal government, and today’s decision by the Supreme Court affirms that Obamacare does not trump those fundamental rights,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, called the ruling “a big win for religious liberty and the First Amendment rights for all Americans.”
“The contraceptive mandate would have infringed on the liberties of thousands of religious and morally conscience employers. It is satisfying to see that deeply held religious convictions do not have to be compromised in the workplace,” he said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the decision further proof that the health care law “represents “one of the greatest governmental overreaches in our nation's history.”
“Religious freedom is an intrinsic part of being American, and the Supreme Court's decision reaffirms that the government cannot mandate that anyone operate in a fashion counter to their most deeply-felt principles,” he said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who's running to succeed Perry, called the ruling “a major victory for religious freedom and another blow to the heavy-handed way the Obama Administration has tried to force the misguided Obamacare law on Americans.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, however, expressed disappointment over the ruling.
"Today's disappointing decision to restrict access to birth control puts employers between women and their doctors. We need to trust women to make their own healthcare decisions, not corporations, the Supreme Court, or Greg Abbott,” she said.