Supreme Court ruling pits religion against reproductive rights

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a Supreme Court ruling that’s getting praise from religious activists and criticism from women’s rights groups. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby and other for-profit companies can opt out of providing free contraceptive care for employees based on religious beliefs.

Not all businesses fit into the Hobby Lobby category. It’s known as a “closely held” company, meaning it’s governed and owned by a small number of people. The companies can be large or small and by some studies employ more than half of the American workforce.

Despite that, a law professor tells FOX 59, he doesn’t think the ruling is that wide-sweeping.

“I think the case was much more prominent in terms of public attention than what its impact will actually be,” said David Orentlicher, Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law at IU’s McKinney School of Law.

The Supreme Court said Hobby Lobby and another company in Pennsylvania don’t have to provide birth control for their employees. The mandate is a hallmark of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby does provide contraception, but they objected to forms like the morning after pill, which they said are too similar to abortion and go against their religious beliefs.

Locally, shoppers said Monday they’d heard about the High Court’s decision.

“I was really surprised. I didn’t expect that to come down the way it did,” said Esther Gar, “I don’t think employers should have the right to decide what is best for your own health.”

What’s the effect of this ruling in Indiana? Professor Orentlicher said likely not much.

“The impact for this case on its own, narrowly written, shouldn’t be very big,” he said, “No doubt this received a lot of attention because it was about the Affordable Care Act, which is a polarizing issue. It was about reproductive rights. That is a polarizing issue.”

Orentlicher said most closely held companies do provide contraception, because they don’t have such tightly held religious convictions. He points to the Court’s ruling, which stated the government could make exceptions for these businesses, like they’ve done with some non-profits, letting insurers or third-parties pick up the tab for birth control.

“The actual impact on women’s access to contraception if this case is followed the way the court has indicated, there should not be a meaningful impact,” said Orentlicher.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky reacted to the news Monday by issuing a statement, reading in part:

“It is unbelievable that in 2014, we are still fighting over access to birth control. Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision means countless women, already struggling to make ends meet, will not have the benefit of the family planning coverage provided to all others under the Affordable Care Act. Employers and politicians should not intrude in matters of such fundamental health care access and decision-making.”

FOX 59 did check with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to see how many closely held businesses are in Indiana. The organization told us they did not have exact figures.