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ACA, religious freedom and women's access to contraception

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: ACA, religious freedom and women's access to contraception
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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on a highly anticipated case that deals with the Affordable Care Act, religious freedom and women’s access to contraception. It involves the arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby. Washington reporter Geoff Bennett was inside the courtroom and has the story.

NEW YORK STATE -- David and Barbara Green and their family say they run their national arts and crafts chain, Hobby Lobby, according to their deeply held Christian beliefs. Their faith, they say, doesn’t end at the church doorstep.

So when the Affordable Care Act legally required employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, including emergency contraceptives such as the morning-after pill, the Greens objected on religious grounds. So, too, did another private, Christian-owned company called Conestoga Wood Specialties.

A divided Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in that pair of challenges. At the core is a federal law designed to protect religious liberty.

The government maintains that law was not designed to protect the religious freedoms of for-profit businesses. But the business owners say the government is forcing them to pay for contraception they oppose or pay a $100 per day penalty for each employee if they don’t comply.

During Tuesday's arguments, the Court’s three female justices said allowing the companies to object could open the floodgates to religious objections of all kinds.

Justice Elena Kagan said, "One religious group could opt out of this, and another religious group could opt out of that, and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform."

But Chief Justice John Roberts said of the federal protections said, "The whole point is that Congress wanted to provide exceptions for the religious views of particular, including proprietors, individuals."

The business owners reiterated that point after the proceedings.

"We believe that Americans don’t lose their religious freedom when they open a family business," said Barbara Green, Co-Owner Hobby Lobby.

"We didn’t choose this fight. Our families would have been happy to just continue providing good jobs and generous healthcare benefits. But the government forced our hand," said Norman Hahn, Founder Conestoga Wood Specialties.

Whatever the Court decides, it won't be a fatal blow to the Affordable Care Act, but it will certainly shape the future of religious freedom cases.

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