WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 this morning to exempt Conestoga Wood Specialties, Hobby Lobby and other for-profit companies from being required to provide employees full health care coverage for contraception, including morning-after pills.

Supreme Court Justices overturned a lower court's ruling that required 900-employee Conestoga Wood Specialties components business to fund contraception  under its group health insurance program as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Anthony Hahn, president and CEO of Conestoga Wood Specialties, argued that requirement violates his Mennonite religious convictions. Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, group insurance policies must cover contraception services. Hobby Lobby owners made a similar claim; their case was combined with Conestoga's in March.

Conestoga Wood Specialties says it would face nearly $3 million per month in Internal Revenue Service fines if it did not allow insurance coverage for contraception.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for the case named Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human
Services vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.
Alito wrote, "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the 'Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.'”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored one of two dissenting opinions. The other was written by Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan.

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Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolate, a national women's advocacy organization, issued a statement protesting the Supreme Court's ruling.“Today’s Court decision by five men sets an outrageous precedent, putting women’s health at risk by singling out women’s health care for discrimination," Chaudhary said. "This ruling is startling in its sweeping implications-- and imperils women’s access to comprehensive health care. We urge President Obama and Congress to take action to immediately remedy this injustice.”

In December 2012 the Hahn family filed a civil lawsuit in Federal Court in Philadelphia against three U.S. government agencies.

In addition to the Hahns as individuals, the Conestoga Wood Specialties corporation was also party to the case. The Supreme Court's ruling supported the idea that a for-profit corporation can have a religious belief, as opposed to an individual or a religious institution.

 

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