BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some companies can opt-out of the Obamacare mandate to provide contraception, if it conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.
The move was applauded by Buffalo Catholic Bishop Richard Malone.
“The Catholic Church and other religious groups have been very concerned in recent years by what we see as an erosion of religious liberty in our country,” Malone said.
The case was brought to the court by owners of the craft chain Hobby Lobby, which has four stores in Western New York.
“We are truly thankful for the decision that allowed us to continue operating our family business according to our principles,” Hobby Lobby co-owner Barbara Green said after the ruling.
When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, Barbara and David Green objected to the mandate to include free birth control in the company’s health care plan. They say some forms of birth control are comparable to abortion.
The ruling opens the door for family-owned businesses to decline to pay for any form of contraception.
“President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves, rather than their bosses deciding for them. Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
The decision does not strike down the contraception mandate entirely. The country’s largest corporations are very unlikely to inject religious beliefs into their health care packages.
But family-owned businesses and closely-held companies such as Hobby Lobby now have a right to say no to that portion of Obamacare.
What remains uncertain is how far business owners will be able to claim religious freedom to avoid other government mandates.
“That’s something that will have to be monitored very, very carefully,” Malone said.