The Supreme Court has turned down a request to temporarily suspend the contentious provision in President Obama’s new health care law that requires all employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives, NBC’s Pete Williams reports.
The two companies challenging the provision—Hobby Lobby Stores, an Oklahoma-based arts and crafts chain, and Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores—are run by religious families who have strong anti-abortion views. The businesses filed their application last Friday, asking the Supreme Court for an immediate order to excuse them from having to provide free health insurance to their employees for emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby and Mardel say the mandate would cause “irreparable harm to their religious freedom and to their businesses.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, to whom the companies directed their urgent appeal, declined to grant an injunction on Wednesday.
Sotomayor said the Supreme Court has never before ruled on a similar claim of free exercise of religion based on mandatory provisions of employment benefit laws, according to NBC’s Pete Williams. She also said that the lower courts are divided on this question, and that no court has yet issued an order stopping enforcement of the law.
If the two companies ultimately lose in the lower courts, Sotomayor said, they can still appeal to the Supreme Court.
Though Obamacare’s contraceptives mandate has stirred up questions of constitutionality in U.S. federal courts, Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius is the first time the debate has reached the Supreme Court.