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Court weighs Obamacare birth control

By Crissinda Ponder ·
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Posted: 5 pm ET

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over challenges to an Affordable Care Act provision that requires most employers to provide birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.

What's the issue?

Two companies -- arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby Inc. and cabinet manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. -- have religious objections to the "contraceptive mandate." The Obama administration argues that for-profit companies can't exercise religious rights that would allow to them to sidestep the birth control requirement.

The question arising from the two cases boils down to whether corporations have First Amendment rights that permit them to claim that complying with the birth control mandate violates their religious freedom. Noncomplying companies would be subject to a daily fine of $1.3 million under the federal health reform law.

It could come down to Kennedy

Longtime Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston, writing for, says it's likely that eight of the justices will be split evenly on the issue, with the remaining one, Justice Anthony Kennedy, providing the swing vote.

Kennedy mentioned that the Obama administration has already exempted certain nonprofits and religiously affiliated organizations from the contraceptive mandate. So, can large companies with religious objections be given the same treatment?

When it was announced in November that the Supreme Court would review the case, the White House released a statement calling the contraceptive mandate "essential to women's health" and said it believed that the justices would agree.

Decision could be a while

This marks the second time that an ACA provision has gone before the Supreme Court. In 2012, the high court upheld the Obamacare mandate requiring most Americans to purchase insurance.

The case is expected to be decided by late June.

Think Obamacare doesn't affect you because you have insurance through work? Think again. Read about Obamacare jolts to employer-based health insurance.

Follow me on Twitter: @CrissiPonder.

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