The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday re-ignited passionate political debates about both religious and reproductive rights.
In a case brought by the craft store chain Hobby Lobby, the high court ruled that certain for-profit companies cannot be compelled to pay for specific types of contraceptives for their employees through health plans – if those company leaders have religious objections to birth control.
The court's conservative members ruled that closely held businesses – those with at least 50 percent of stock held by five or fewer people – were right in arguing that the Affordable Care Act violates a federal law that protects religious freedom. Hobby Lobby and other businesses have argued that, given the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it was not fair for Obamacare to require them to provide coverage for contraceptives like the "morning-after pill."
The 5-4 ruling sparked a firestorm of both cheers and protest in Minnesota and nationwide.
Like Hobby Lobby, at least 80 other companies have been fighting to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act based on religious beliefs, the Daily Beast reports, which lists many of them – including several Minnesota companies. Among them: A company owned by an ordained Catholic deacon that manufactures and markets mining equipment.
KSTP reports that eight lawsuits were pending in Minnesota as lower courts awaited the Supreme Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby.
KSTP talks with Paul and Pat Archambault, who manage 15 employees at Stinson Electric in Minneapolis. They argue that the Affordable Care Act conflicts with their Roman Catholic morals.
"My wife and I had a really tough time making that decision and saying that we'd write those checks every month," Paul Archambault said. "For our conscience, we just can't accept that."
The Star Tribune talks with a Minneapolis lawyer who represents seven clients, including Annex Medical of Minnetonka, in a challenge of the Affordable Care Act. Erick Kardaal tells the newspaper the Supreme Court ruling was "a huge victory" for his clients, even if it doesn't equate to an immediate automatic exemption for them.
The deacon, Greg Hall, whose company O’Brien Industrial Holding in St. Joseph, Minnesota, manufactures drilling pumps and parts, told the Star Tribune he was "grateful and gratified" by the court ruling.
The ruling drew sharp protest from groups that advocate for women's reproductive rights. Protesters outside the Supreme Court on Monday held signs that said "Bosses control the boardroom, not the bedroom."
Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, said the organization is deeply disappointed with the high court's decision.
"Now, some women's bosses are going to be able to interfere with employees' access to birth control," Stoesz tells MPR News. "And birth control is important for women not just so they can plan their families, but also so they can address underlying health conditions."
The organization vowed to keep the debate alive: