The Affordable Care Act is going back before the U.S. Supreme Court, which largely upheld Obamacare in a close 5-4 ruling last year. The justices have announced that this time, they'll focus on a provision in the law that requires employers of a certain size to offer free health insurance coverage for birth control starting Jan. 1.
The issues at hand include whether faith-based nonprofit organizations and private companies have the same First Amendment rights that individual Americans enjoy, and if complying with the birth control mandate would violate their religious freedom.
A contentious issue
The contraception coverage rule has been struck down by three federal appeals courts and upheld by two others. There are nearly 100 other pending lawsuits filed in federal court challenging the rule, according to CNN.
Under the provision, noncomplying companies will be subject to a daily $1.3 million fine.
The Christian family that owns the Oklahoma City-based craft stores chain Hobby Lobby Inc. -- one of the plaintiffs -- says parts of the mandate go against its beliefs and that some of the contraceptives, such as the Plan B One-Step "morning-after" pill, might be considered abortion drugs.
White House calls rule 'essential'
The Obama administration stands by the birth control coverage rule. "We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women's health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree," the White House says in a statement.
Contraception mandate exemptions already exist for religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations, federal officials note.
Last year the Supreme Court upheld the mandate that's at the heart of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement that most Americans purchase insurance by 2014.
It is expected that the high court's oral arguments in the new case will be heard sometime in March, with a decision expected by late June.
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