Supreme Court Takes Up Obamacare Contraception Mandate

High court will review whether businesses can use religious objections to escape birth control requirement.
8:46 | 11/26/13

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Transcript for Supreme Court Takes Up Obamacare Contraception Mandate
I'm Dan -- in New -- with the CBC news digital special report the Supreme Court could step in to make another ruling about the Affordable Care Act. The court's justices today green -- -- another dispute over Obama care specifically. Whether businesses can use religious objections to avoid a requirement. To cover birth control for employees. So for more on what the court might -- and the issue and I want to bring -- ABC news political director Rick -- In Washington Rick thanks for being with us today. -- so what are the arguments -- other side this mandate being challenged. And this cuts to an important principle inside the Obama health care law which is a requirement that health plans include coverage for contraception. Now there is already an exception for religious institutions that have. Deeply held beliefs that its data contraception is wrong and they if it violates those beliefs of the -- of the religious institution there that apartment does not apply to the health plan. That's covered by them but this in this case we have private entities specifically one large business they hobby lobby and even familiar with it. Around the country antidepressant like 500 stores and it is. The owners of hobby lobby have long felt that. -- -- Religious beliefs would preclude them from offering contraceptive coverage their employees this is a -- for -- is -- -- on Sundays. That has over teams inside the store they make no bones about those religious beliefs the question is to those religious beliefs. Exempt them from the requirement that would otherwise apply for them to the to have all of their health coverage. Include contraceptive coverage so it's important when you look at how narrow this religious exemption is right now and whether you be able to blow that opens up quite a bit larger universe of people. And fact that president Stephen Green so that there work their personal -- effect cannot be separated. On -- play bit -- what he said. It would not be consistent for us to live one way at home in the -- except a different way at work. That would that would being consistent with our -- So given that -- and what the Supreme Court make of that kind of argument. The. Question is where the boundary -- the can be drawn on the First Amendment because we already have some wiggle room inside the Obama administration on how this is being applied. They decided not to pick a fight. With big religious organizations and by the way that's not just people that work directly for churches he could be that people that work for. Catholic universities for instance -- it's -- already had a pretty big universe of people that we're talking about that would get their health coverage from. An overtly religious institution. But here's something different because in this case we have a private entity private institution people who work for that private institution. Know about the religion of the all of the owners and of that company. And the question is whether you can force their hand and force them in their words to violate their own religious beliefs. On behalf of the health care law this is no small piece because you could you could imagine all sorts of a moral ethical objections to different parts of health coverage. Right now there's essentially no regulation around what has to be included what doesn't have to be included as part of health care. The Obama administration -- in through the Obama health care law. Feels very strongly that you need to -- the to have everyone have this expanded coverage and that that expanded coverage include contraceptive access to contraception so. You have these it's fundamental clash inside the First Amendment for these groups for these organizations for these entities. That want to have some limits on what health coverage is provided. Now usually the White House is quiet. For the Supreme Court cases makes any kind of decisions on -- but they did in fact release a statement today and I want every part of that the about a administration asked the Supreme Court. To consider a legal challenge to the health care law's requirement. That for profit corporations include birth control coverage. In insurance available to their employees we believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women's health and are confident. The Supreme Court will agree now -- usually the Supreme Court. Doesn't like that kind of federal involvement so is a statement like that can have any kind of an impact. What is the situation right now -- you have competing rulings from lower courts and hodgepodge. Around the country and if this court would not decide this challenge. You'd have different areas of the country have different interpretations of this federal law that's a mess and that's one reason that the court is taking two separate cases consolidated them. Scheduled some arguments they're probably held. Sometime early in the spring we expect a ruling sometime in the summer to at least figure out this piece of it. It clearly the Obama administration will have a voice in this the -- the defendants in these cases. They will be advocating on -- behalf I don't think a statement today is going anger any justices people know this is -- hot button issue. And it'll be argued out in front of the court we will have their day probably in March in fact the health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the defendant in this suit why her. Because she is the person that is the actually implementing the law the Health and Human Services Department is implementing to -- you often see. A federal officials visited bit at the center of a dispute whether that's the attorney general sometimes the president himself for that this Defense Secretary depending on the area named in the lawsuit. It is secretary civilians who is enforcing who is -- acting. This piece of legislation it is -- apartment it's made rulings based on how broad the religious exemption can be and -- is the -- her department that has said. That that he's dead in the the broad exemption does not apply to private employers -- that if you are simply a private employer who happens have religious beliefs. That's not the same as being a religious institution. Where offering certain parts of health coverage specifically contraceptive coverage birth control would violate those believe. It's so let me ask you this then -- if in fact the case does he picked up by the Supreme Court will be the attorney general Eric Holder. It going before the justices to. Spending this law. It'll likely be the solicitor general of the United States is someone who works in the department of -- -- -- -- the top lawyer in the Department of Justice that's typical. The in fact the the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts was the solicitor general before cities people. They have a lot of experience -- arguing cases like this and it will be the Obama administration. Issuing a defense of its own law brought by private challengers. Of course I can all be moot because what is the likelihood -- in fact that the court will take up this kind of a case of me is is the court having its hand forced somewhat. Because of -- -- there are two different rulings in lower appellate courts. I think that's a factor. -- -- it's not necessarily the case that the justices feel like they need to sort out the work of the lower courts. But this is no small issue and they know what they have already weighed in on the larger issues around the Obama health care law -- -- call chief Justice Roberts and that opinion that he did -- he had. Of the year ago and we -- and a half ago that that upheld the central portion of the law essentially by rewriting it. Eight although it did not uphold the requirement for Medicaid expansion which is having its own impacts right now so -- they have they have grabbed onto the meat of this law. Pretty aggressively in the past I would imagine that that the pressure will be on them to issue so kind of the definitive ruling on this one way or the other particularly now that they've scheduled. A days of arguments on it unless there's some kind of a split court opinion. Again hard to imagine that scenario right now and in in a divided court it's been -- divided on party lines as so many issues that they would be divided on this as well is probably likely but to be evenly split another -- it's likely they'll have some kind of definitive ruling on this. And at least with respect to this aspect of the Obama health care law you get a final ruling from the highest court. -- let me ask -- this coming -- -- -- -- -- things and Rick -- of the Affordable Care Act since its very launch even before the rollout occurred. There -- -- he stumbling blocks for it to say the least and the president even acknowledging so himself. It seems as if there is one hurdle that is accomplished there is another one that's been put in the way. That's right and of the White House didn't want this to be brought to court they felt like the administration sorted this out it was actually a big issue in debating the law itself. -- was a a big issue in trying to cobble together the votes among Democrats for the Obama health care law but how he would handle religious institutions and they came up with the you know kind of a hodgepodge of different regulations and provisions to try to take care of the they the heartfelt objections of religious institutions that have employees that have health care for those employees -- didn't want to lose that health coverage they wanted to make sure they. I've met the requirements of the law. You have folks who were caught somewhere in between hobby lobby again is -- is a classic example as a private employer a private company. That has -- felt the heartfelt beliefs held by its owners it's it was not -- it's not the company itself that has the believes in the same way that a Catholic Church would. But it's very hard to extricate that front and you have owners who -- willing to go to court to make that argument so they've been so many obstacles to this law right now this is against the backdrop of scrambling to fix a website to make -- the -- -- implemented. I think about and it's racial wants to make sure though that their interpretation prevails they're gonna make an aggressive case shortly. Before the Supreme Court that the -- they have drawn this line is correct and so we will shall wait and see how that will plan ABC's -- in Washington Rick thank you for that.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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