The U.S. Supreme Court met for a final time today before their summer recess to make a big decision about birth control. The issue: Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts retailer, was challenging the contraceptive mandate set forth in the Affordable Health Care Act, which requires employers to cover contraception for women at no extra charge as part of a range of preventative health care benefits in employee health plans.
In the 5-4 decision just announced, the court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, marking the first time the court has said that a for-profit business can cite religious views under federal law, according to The New York Times. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion on the case, saying that the contraceptive mandate in its current form is "unlawful," but stressing that the ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners.
Hobby Lobby is one of dozens of private companies claiming religious objections to covering the costs of some or all contraceptives. The Obama administration has insisted that full insurance coverage for birth control is important to a woman's health and will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The court had to decide whether the government's decision to have employee health plans pay for birth control was important enough to overcome a private company's religious objection.
Arguments were heard in March and supporters of Hobby Lobby were hopeful the court would uphold the rights of individuals to "express religious freedom." Ahead of this morning's ruling, they cited last week's unanimous ruling that President Obama "exceeded his constitutional authority" on recess appointments as a positive sign the court would vote to reign in overreach on requirements under the Affordable Health Care Act.