June can't end soon enough for the Obama administration, following two major blows from the U.S. Supreme Court. Just a few days after the high court unanimously ruled that the Obama White House has overreached its executive powers in so-called recess appointments, the Supreme Court ruled early today a key element of Obamacare was a no-go.
Simply put, and there's very little that is simple here, in a 5-4 decision, the conservative majority of the court said that companies can't be forced to offer insurance coverage for birth control. The justices pointed to something called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that protects for-profit corporations from the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.
Monday's ruling was the first major legal setback for Obamacare since the same court upheld it in a landmark 2012 5-4 vote.
But two for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, had challenged the health reform plan's contraceptive requirement. As written, Obamacare says most companies with more than 50 employees who do not provide contraceptive coverage face fines of $100 per day per employee. Hobby Lobby had estimated that the penalty would cost it $475 million a year for its 13,000 workers. Hobby Lobby argued that the mandate contradicted its religious convictions, particularly through the so-called "morning-after" pill, which it linked to abortion.
But the Supreme Court's liberal wing, including its three female justices, warned that if Monday's decision allowed some companies to avoid coverage for contraception, other companies would follow suit using religious waivers against such things as vaccines or blood transfusions.