The US Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a series of orders suggesting that its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby applies to all forms of contraception and not just the methods at issue in the Hobby Lobby case.
The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood had mounted a legal challenge to only two methods of birth control covered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive coverage benefit, the IUD and emergency contraception, which – according to their religious beliefs and despite science to the contrary – they considered abortifacients. The Supreme Court on Tuesday, however, signaled that its decision, that the government could not require these companies to provide these methods of birth control, reaches beyond these methods to include all forms of contraception, and possibly even counseling about contraceptive services.
The Court issued orders to lower federal courts in six cases. In three of those cases, a federal appeals court had upheld the contraceptive coverage benefit against challenges from for-profit companies. The Court on Tuesday directed these courts to reconsider their rulings in light of the Hobby Lobby decision. In the other three cases, however, the federal appeals courts had ruled against the government and for the companies. In all of those cases, the Court denied review of the lower courts’ decisions, with no explanation.
Each of the cases in the federal appeals courts involved Catholic owners of various profit-making businesses. Each owner claimed religious objections to all contraceptive services required by the ACA, including all FDA-approved forms of birth control, sterilization, and counseling.
Media Resources: LA Times 7/2/14; The Nation 7/2/14; SCOTUS Blog 7/1/14