The Hobby Lobby Ruling in Plain English: Everything You Need to Know

hobbylobbyWhat does the Supreme Court decision mean?

Today’s ruling means that closely held, for-profit employers do not have to include some forms of contraceptive coverage in their employees’ health plans. A closely held corporation is one that has a limited number of shareholders and does not regularly trade stock on a public exchange. According to the ruling, forcing companies to cover the contraceptives in question would be a violation of their religious liberties.

What types of contraceptives are included in this decision?

The contraceptives that these employer health plans no longer have to cover include Plan B (morning-after pill), Ella (morning-after pill), and Hormonal and copper intrauterine devices (IUDs).

This decision does not include oral contraceptives (the pill)–those will still be covered under employer health plans.

Why were these particular contraceptives targeted?

Because they believe that life begins at conception, Hobby Lobby argued that any contraceptives that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus are essentially equivalent to abortion. Thus, forcing the company to provide health plans that cover these services would be, in their opinion, a violation of their religious freedom under the First Amendment.

Which of the Supreme Court Justices voted in favor of Hobby Lobby?

The 5-4 vote was divided as follows:

FOR HOBBY LOBBY: Samuel Alito (appointed by George W. Bush), Clarence Thomas (appointed by George H.W. Bush), John Roberts (appointed by George W. Bush), Antonin Scalia (appointed by Ronald Reagan), and  Anthony Kennedy (appointed by Ronald Reagan).

AGAINST HOBBY LOBBY: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (appointed by Bill Clinton), Stephen Breyer (appointed by Bill Clinton), Elena Kagan (appointed by Barack Obama), and Sonia Sotomayor (appointed by Barack Obama).

What were some of the arguments against Hobby Lobby?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated some of the following arguments in her dissent:

(1) In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

(2) The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.

(3) The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.

Could this ruling eventually be used to deny other healthcare services by citing religious freedom?

Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion for this ruling, and within it stated that this decision cannot be used to deny other types of healthcare services. However, now that the court has ruled in favor of religious liberty in this case, it is feasible that another company can bring suit to avoid having to cover other types of services in the future. Alito said, “This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g. for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.”

For more details on today’s ruling, click here.

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