Here is an account, by reporter Robert Barnes, of the argument before the Supreme Court over the Obamacare contraception mandate:
A divided Supreme Court seemed inclined to agree Tuesday that the religious beliefs of business owners may trump a requirement in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that they provide their employees with insurance coverage for all types of contraceptives.
With both snow and demonstrators gathering on the sidewalk outside, it was difficult to predict a precise outcome from the spirited 90-minute argument.
Protesters assemble at Supreme Court for cases on contraceptive coverage: Protesters marched outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday as the justices heard arguments about whether the religious beliefs of business owners trump a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that their employees must be provided with insurance coverage for all types of contraceptives.
But a majority of the justices seemed to agree that the family-owned businesses that objected to the requirement were covered by a federal statute that gives great protection to the exercise of religion. That would mean the government must show the requirement is not a substantial burden on their religious expression, and that there was no less intrusive way to provide contraceptive coverage to female workers.As is often the case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — who voted two years ago to find Obamacare unconstitutional — seemed to hold the balance. Some of his remarks and questions favored the government-. He was concerned about workers being denied coverage to which they were entitled by law because of their employers’ objections.
But Kennedy also worried that the government’s reasoning would mean there was little employers could object to funding.
Under your view, Kennedy told Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., a corporation “could be forced in principle to pay for abortions.”
Verrilli said there were laws against that. “But your reasoning would permit that,” Kennedy responded
Verrilli wanted to talk more about Kennedy’s other point, and he tried to get the justices to focus on the rights of the employees, who would be denied the type of contraceptive coverage best for them.
The three liberal and female justices were the most vocal in questioning Paul D. Clement, the Washington lawyer representing two companies who object to providing coverage for emergency contraception and IUDs.