- Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed
- Mississippi abortion law can’t be enforced
- Teacher who survived Sandy Hook has book deal
- Jury awards Jesse Ventura $1.8M in case vs. ‘American Sniper’ author Chris Kyle
- Middle Eastern firm’s deal to manage U.S. cargo port raises security concerns
- Bob McDonnell’s defense: Lonely wife developed ‘crush’ on CEO
- Chinese hackers stole ‘huge quantities’ of sensitive data on Israel’s Iron Dome
- House Republicans unveil bill to speed deportations of border children
- Californians protest middle school for hiring white man to teach cultural studies
- Killer’s sentencing overturned because mother couldn’t find seat in courtroom
Supreme Court position on Obamacare birth control mandate a tough call
Question of the Day
When the Supreme Court next year decides whether the Obama administration can force for-profit companies to insure birth control, the punditry around abortion or the “war on women” will be overshadowed by legal precedent and acts by Congress that weigh religious liberty against government mandates, legal scholars say.
How the nine justices will rule on the contraception mandate — an outgrowth of President Obama’s signature health care law — is anyone’s guess, after federal appeals courts across the country could not agree on whether the government could force larger employers to insure a range of contraceptives as part of their health care plans.
“It’s a difficult case,” said Trevor Burrus, a research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.
It also probably will not matter that three of the court’s justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — are female, even if the case involves the coverage of contraceptive services that are used by women, said Holly Lynch, a health care policy and bioethics specialist at Harvard Law School.
“I think this will really be an issue of religious freedom,” she said, “divorced as much as possible from the specific content of the objectionable requirement.”
The final say
The idea that the Supreme Court would have the final say over Mr. Obama’s contraception mandate was never in doubt. In the wake of the Affordable Care Act’s enactment in 2010, conservative lawmakers lambasted the contraceptive move as a serious affront to devout business owners in their districts.
Dozens of businesses sued, saying they run their companies in line with deeply held beliefs and that they particularly object to insuring morning-after pills, which they equate with abortion. They said that if the mandate stood, their firms would have to choose between violating their faith or dropping health care coverage for their employees.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver eventually said Hobby Lobby — a family-owned chain of craft stores based in Oklahoma — had a legitimate case against the administrative mandate. Some circuit courts agreed, but others didn’t.
In November, the Supreme Court said it would consider challenges from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania-based firm whose Mennonite owners did not win their challenge at the circuit court level.
Instead, it may be useful to look at how the high court has applied a key law aimed at protecting religious liberties, or other legal precedents at play.
Clues in case law?
Analysts pointed to a pair of Supreme Court decisions that came down before and after Congress passed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, a 1993 law aimed at preventing burdens on the right to exercise religious beliefs.
Congress passed the legislation, which figures prominently in lawsuits against the contraception mandate, in part as a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, the state of Oregon refused to provide unemployment benefits to American Indians who were fired from a rehabilitation clinic after testing positive for the key ingredient in peyote.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- Sen. Joe Manchin sued by his brother over old loan: report
- Putin a 'megalomaniac' who must be challenged with force: Sen. Johnson
- New Mexico decides to use HealthCare.gov for 2015
- New Englander Scott Brown turns his gaze to the U.S. border crisis
- HHS: 'Donut hole' reforms saved Medicare enrollees $11.5 billion since 2010
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
- Boehner rules out impeachment: 'Scam started by Democrats'
- Obama thanks Muslims for 'building the very fabric of our nation'
- Federal judge grants 90-day stay in D.C. gun case
- Inside the Beltway: Immigration rage festers on all sides
- Obama's brother wears Hamas scarf bearing anti-Israel slogans in photo
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Smugglers, rainstorm combine to poke holes in border fence
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Obama: 'Not a new Cold War,' but new Russia sanctions announced
- Hillary Clinton: I was indeed 'dead broke,' but shouldn't have said so
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world