Washington D.C.- The Supreme Court heard on Wednesday the deeply divided arguments in favor and against President Barack Obama’s health care law, a case about the Affordable Care Act‘s guarantee of free birth control for women. The Supreme Court seemed very divided over the arrangement planned by the administration to make religious groups pay for birth control for women covered under the health plans.
Eight judges on the Supreme Court heard arguments to decide what the government should do to provide free insurance coverage for contraception to female workers. This law also gives an automatic exception to houses of worship, like churches, but it does not for nonprofits like religious schools and hospitals, which mean they would have to provide the coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Religious freedom Restoration Act controversy
According to the rules issued by the Obama administration in 2014, religious nonprofit organizations don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage, but they do have to either fill out a government form or write a letter stating that they object and telling the government who their insurer is so the government can arrange for contraceptive coverage to be provided. As a result, Religious institutions like schools and churches have said that forcing them to comply with that requirement violates a federal law protecting religious freedom.
Chief Justice John Roberts said the faith-based groups objected because the government is hijacking their insurance plans. He added that even though the religious employers do not have to pay for or directly arrange for the coverage, the employers’ insurance plans are being used by the government to provide these services.
What if it ends up 4-4?
Ninety minutes arguments and frequent interruptions by the justices indicated that the court seemed headed for a 4-4 tie. This situation could lead to two different situations. One of them is leaving the issue unresolved nationally, or the court could hold a new round of arguments once a ninth justice is confirmed to take the place of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month.
If this situation ends up in a 4-4, the case will likely end up at the Supreme Court again, once a new justice is appointed. This is because seven of eight appeals courts have ruled that requiring nonprofits to opt out from the mandate doesn’t impose a “substantial burden” on religious rights, but one court ruled the contrary. That means that in most of the country, non-profits will have to continue to opt out, but in some other states, they will be exempt.
Source: NY Times