Contraception Cases Head to Supreme Court Tomorrow

The Supreme Court is now preparing to hear oral arguments on two cases, both to be heard this Tuesday, brought by for-profit businesses against the contraception requirement of the federal healthcare law.  Under the current rules, exemptions from providing full coverage are already in place for religiously affiliated organizations, but the two cases this week will take a closer look at the beliefs of for-profit corporations.

The first case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., will consider whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives, coverage that is currently required by federal law, based on the religious objections of the company’s owners.

Immediately after Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court will then hear the case of Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.  The second case is similar to the first, with the owners of a company challenging the coverage of contraception for their employees.  In Conestoga Wood Specialties, however, the owners are bringing their claim under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

The outcome of both of these decisions could have a drastic impact on healthcare coverage for many female workers.  Without the full coverage of healthcare services that their male colleagues enjoy, many women may not be able to afford the most effective forms of contraception, which are also the most expensive, and some women will not be able to afford birth control at all.  The economic and social ramifications of such a situation would be significant; as it is now, more than half of pregnancies in America are unintended.   Denial of birth control coverage would have the most serious impact on low-income women, but the results would also inherently affect the entire nation.

While the Supreme Court likely will not rule on the issue of contraceptive coverage for a few months, public opinion is relatively clear.  A recent poll revealed that over half of Americans believe for-profit corporations should have to provide contraception coverage for their employees.  The majority opinion also reflects the fact that most women, no matter their personal faith, will use birth control in their lifetime.

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