Companies challenge Affordable Care Act

Posted at 11:02 PM, Mar 25, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utahns are weighing in as a fight began at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday.

Oral argument began for two companies challenging the Affordable Care Act. The battle is over contraceptives.

Craft store Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which makes furniture argue they shouldn't be forced to provide certain forms of birth control they say threaten the sanctity of human life.

Some of Utah's conservative political leaders are backing these companies saying this is about religious freedom while Planned Parenthood says it's alarming to think a corporation could tell women what birth control they can and cannot have.

"I say this is a pretty big case in part because our country is split on this issue," said Salt Lake defense attorney Greg Skordas.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are run by devout Christians who say they'll provide many contraceptives under Obamacare but not the morning-after pill or I.U.Ds.

"They think those contraceptive measures come too close to abortion," Skordas said.

The companies are making their case using a 1993 law, which says the government must show good reason for putting burdens on religious practices.

"We believe that Americans don't lose their religious freedom when they open a family business," said Barbara Green, owner of Hobby Lobby.

Sen. Orrin Hatch helped pass the 1993 law.

“The Obama administration has admitted that they did not even consider the impact of Obamacare on religious liberty, and their arguments today in the Supreme Court showed that they still don't care about it,” Hatch said in a statement Tuesday.

Utah joined other states supporting Hobby Lobby. Attorney General Sean Reyes signed an amicus brief in January.

"This whole case is about a for-profit corporation, in this case, Hobby Lobby, coming in and saying, ‘wait a minute we're founded by Christians and Christian values, why can't we enjoy same protections religious organizations can just because we're a for-profit corporation,’" Skordas said.

Heather Stringfellow with Planned Parenthood of Utah is concerned that a ruling in favor of these companies opens up the doors for for-profit businesses to institute policies based solely on religious beliefs.

"We're afraid it wouldn't stop with Hobby Lobby,” Stringfellow said. “It would be something other business owners would choose to do and that's the whole point of the Affordable Care Act, is for women to have access to birth control without being worried about cost."

Chief Justice John Robert said the court could decide to limit its decision to private corporations and wait until a publicly-traded corporation made a similar case, which is unlikely.

Justices are expected to make their decision in June when the term ends.