The Supreme Court discussed on Wednesday whether Christian employers from non-profit organizations should mandatorily give birth control coverage and contraceptives to women at no extra cost, as required by the healthcare law approved by the Obama administration six years ago.
Christian organizations say that the law should not obligate them to provide contraception coverage for religious reasons. It appears that the Court’s decision is divided between four conservative justices and four liberals that are backing the laws issued by the Obama administration.
The court’s conservatives were Roman Catholic, including the archdiocese of Washington, as reported by Reuters. Christian employers argue that contraception is immoral and that they should not be compelled to decide between the state law or religious law.
According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who supports the Christian challengers, if employers are obligated to provide birth control contraceptives to women, they are “subsidizing the conduct that they deem immoral”, as Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The health laws issued in 2014 under the Obama administration say that religious organizations, such as universities and hospitals, are not obligated to give contraceptive coverage, but they need to follow some steps.
One would be to fill out a government form, the other would be to write a letter explaining that they want to object, requesting the government to ask insurers to pay for contraception. On the other hand, plaintiffs say that just the fact of authorizing coverage for employees violates their religious rights.
“The Zubik vs Burwell case” compiles seven cases related to nonprofit entities who argue that the 2014 health laws go against the 1993 U.S. law called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. A ruling is expected by late June, however, a 4-4 split, would not be enough to set national precedents.
“My clients would like to be conscientious objectors. But the government is insisting they be conscientious collaborators.” attorney Paul Clement told the justices, as quoted by NPR.
A 9th Justice could solve the case
Last week, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Brian Garland, current Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to serve on the Supreme Court. President’s proposal comes in a context where Republicans have accorded to block candidates selected by the White House.
Since the contraception case is evenly split (4-4), a 9th Justice could prevent the case from being re-argued in the following months, if the Supreme Court does not take a decision in June.