WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down the Obamacare mandate that some companies must pay for contraception coverage in an employee’s insurance plan, a decision hailed by many as a victory for religious freedom.
The court also ruled that it would be a First Amendment violation to force home healthcare workers to pay non-member fees to public employee unions. The decision was a setback for labor unions in Illinois, where hundreds of thousands of workers were forced to pay dues without a say in union business.
The 5 to 4 ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby means that women who want birth control pills or the so-called “morning after” abortion pills covered by their insurance carriers would have to pay for it, if their employers object to the practice based on religious convictions.
Hercules Industries, an HVAC manufacturer in Colorado owned by the Newland family, also filed a federal lawsuit against that provision in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act arguing the mandate forced the business to violate its religious beliefs by purchasing the coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.
The Newland family won their case in district court, and that decision was upheld in October by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bill Newland said the Supreme Court’s decision for Hobby Lobby supports their belief that family businesses can serve their market without giving up their religious beliefs and moral values.
“The alternative of complying with the mandate or face crippling fines and government punishment is something no person or family should face in this great country,” Newland said.
“To be forced to distribute life-terminating drugs runs counter to our beliefs and deeply held culture of life, permeates our business and personal lives,” Newland said.
Democrats are using the decision to fuel their narrative that Republicans can’t be trusted with women’s health issues, and say it’s discrimination to force women to bear the full cost of contraception that runs from $15 to $35 a month, or $50 and more for the “morning after” pills.
Democrats say the decision jeopardizes a woman’s right to cheap or free contraception and that private businesses should be forced to subsidize part of the cost.
Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall said the decision undermines a critical part of Obamacare and cited it as an example of his decisions to support the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“A woman’s personal health decisions about choosing to use contraception and when to start a family should stay strictly between her and her doctor — not her boss,” Udall said in a statement.
Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette said in a joint statement with Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York that paying the full price for birth control denies a woman her constitutional rights.
“A woman’s private medical decisions should never be subject to the approval of bosses, politicians, religious leaders, or anyone else, and we are disappointed that the court has abandoned this long-standing interpretation of the Constitution’s right to privacy,” DeGette and Slaughter said.
Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Udall for the Senate seat in the November election, said the court made the right decision about who should pay, and that the Food and Drug Administration should move quickly to make oral contraceptives available to adults without a prescription.
“This easy step will make oral contraceptives both accessible and affordable for every woman who wants them. It’s common sense and it’s the right thing to do,” Gardner said.
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Obamacare mandate.
Lamborn called the ruling a victory for religious liberty and a rebuke against the Obama administration “that has shown continuous disregard for our constitutional protections in its efforts to impose a radical liberal agenda.”