Yet Another Blow to Birth Control Coverage

The Supreme Court's latest decision will limit a key benefit for women.

In today's bad news for women's rights: Access to birth control just got even harder. The Supreme Court has ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees.

Christian-owned craft supply chain Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration earlier this year over the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate, which requires most employers to cover the full range of contraception in their health care plans at no cost to their female employees—something pretty helpful for the roughly four out of every five women using birth control pills. The owners of the company (which has more than 10,000 full-time female employees) argued that while they don't oppose their employees' personal decisions, they don't want to be forced to help pay for certain methods of birth control that conflict with their religious beliefs.

In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with Hobby Lobby, saying the Obama administration failed to show that the contraception mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act is the "least restrictive means of advancing its interest" in providing birth control at no cost to women.

Women Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, along with Justice Stephen Breyer, were all part of a dissenting opinion that said Congress had never intended to allow for-profit corporations to get religious-based exemptions. Ginsburg argued that the government has a "compelling interest" in providing no-cost birth control to women, stating, "The mandated contraception coverage enables women to avoid the health problems unintended pregnancies may visit on them and their children."

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also voiced her opinion against the decision. "Today, the Supreme Court ruled against American women and families, giving bosses the right to discriminate against women and deny their employees access to birth control coverage," she said in a statement. "This is a deeply disappointing and troubling ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly-wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control."

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