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High court poised to decide birth-control dispute

By The Associated Press

This article was published June 28, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice.

The court meets for a final time Monday to release decisions in its two remaining cases before the justices take off for the summer.

The cases involve birth control coverage under President Barack Obama's health law and fees paid to labor unions representing government employees by workers who object to being affiliated with a union.

Two years after Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama's campaign for re-election, the justices are considering a sliver of the law.

Employers must cover contraception for women at no extra charge among a range of preventive benefits in employee health plans.

Dozens of companies, including the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, claim religious objections to covering some or all contraceptives.

The methods and devices at issue before the Supreme Court are those that Hobby Lobby and furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pennsylvania, say can work after conception. They are the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, as well as intrauterine devices, which can cost up to $1,000.

The Obama administration says insurance coverage for birth control is important to women's health and reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies, as well as abortions.

The court has never recognized a for-profit corporation's religious rights under federal law or the Constitution. But even some supporters of the administration's position said they would not be surprised if the court were to do so on Monday, perhaps limiting the right to corporations that are under tight family control.

Several justices worried at the argument in March that such a decision would lead to religious objections to covering blood transfusions or vaccinations.

Prominent Washington lawyer Paul Smith said another important question is how the decision would apply to "laws that protect people from discrimination, particularly LGBT people."

In the Hobby Lobby case, even if the court finds such a right exists, it still has to weigh whether the government's decision to have employee health plans pay for birth control is important enough to overcome the companies' religious objections.

It is no surprise that this high-profile case, argued three months ago, is among the last released.

The other unresolved case has been hanging around since late January, often a sign that the outcome is especially contentious.

Home health care workers in Illinois want the court to rule that public sector unions cannot collect fees from workers who aren't union members. The idea behind compulsory fees for nonmembers is that the union negotiates the contract for all workers, so they all should share in the cost of that work.

The court has been hostile to labor unions in recent years. If that trend continues Monday, the justices could confine their ruling to home health workers or they could strike a big blow against unions more generally.

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FreeSpiritMan says... June 28, 2014 at 4:29 p.m.

I am sure the Robert's court will side with Hobby Lobby. People should not have to quit their jobs just because of religious beliefs of the owners.

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djigoo says... June 28, 2014 at 4:44 p.m.

"You're not a doctor. You're not a church. You sell stencils." Lizz Winstead, regarding Hobby Lobby.

How frightening to think the the Amercan Taliban wishes to allow a woman's employer to come between her and her doctor when it comes to health care decisions.

Fight the Christofascists and their Star-Spangled Sharia Law!

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pauljohnson says... June 28, 2014 at 11:25 p.m.

Hobby Lobby does not pay it's employees enough to make the decision whether or not they can afford to have more children. Birth control is a right. If they can't afford more children then Hobby Lobby should be forced to pay for their contraceptives.

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InadvertentObfuscation says... June 29, 2014 at 3:43 p.m.

"The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice." The opening line is simply false. No employer is asking for the power to deny birth control to anyone. The apparent reason ObamaCare mandates contraceptives for free instead of, for example, free treatment of a child's broken arm, is that the administration seeks to attack religious people that tend to vote against pro-abortion Democrats. Pro-life folks are forced to spend their money and time on court cases instead of politics. Or they can pay for sacrificing babies to Baal.

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nwar says... June 29, 2014 at 4:43 p.m.

The Administration seeks to attack "religious people'? Really? All the Obama Administration has done is say that health insurance coverage should include contraceptives. Given that almost every woman in this country uses birth control at some time in their lives, how is that attacking "religious people'? Should women who need oral contraceptives for irregular or heavy bleeding be able to have their insurance pay for them? Should they have to go to their Hobby Lobby bosses and swear that they won't have sex while taking these pills? Are you getting the drift of how stupid the Hobby Lobby position is?

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Reason says... June 29, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.

Gosh, I thought Arkansas republicans now supported abortion. You know that Rapert, guy that came out with their own bill and everything supporting abortion up to 20 weeks and 20 weeks covers about 99% of all abortions?

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Populist says... June 29, 2014 at 8:32 p.m.

The insurance companies want to cover contraceptives because it is cheaper than child birth. Employers should not be able to tell their employees that they cannot have the birth control. Employers should not be able to control the religious beliefs and practices of their employees.

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lazyman says... June 29, 2014 at 9:15 p.m.

Hobby Lobby is seeking to exclude the options that cause abortions, 4 out of the 20 or so methods of birth control. If one believes that abortion is murder, as many do, than one must hope that Hobby Lobby prevails.

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RonalFos says... June 29, 2014 at 10:12 p.m.

If the court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, businesses will start inventing religions just to get out of doing anything the government mandates that they don't like. The Chamber of Commerce will probably be the high priesthood.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... June 30, 2014 at 12:23 a.m.

The next few days will prove to be vary interesting on this.

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