In two sharply divided decisions with significant impact in Missouri and Illinois, the U.S. Supreme Court extended religious rights to corporations that object to providing contraceptives to workers and it held that home health workers had a free speech right not to pay union dues.
Both decisions on the closing day of the court were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and featured all five Republican-nominated justices voting in the majority and all four Democratic-nominated justices voting in dissent. In the contraceptive case, all of the justices in the majority were men and three of the justices in the dissent were women.
The Hobby Lobby decision affects about a dozen lawsuits in Missouri and Illinois and about 70 nationally. It extends the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to closely held corporations that object on religious grounds to certain contraceptives. The court said that the Obama administration still could require that women receive contraceptive services but would have to find a less restrictive way of doing it.
Area Republican members of Congress were swift to weigh in with their opinions – and all supported the Supreme Court’s decision, which they framed as a matter of “religious freedom.” Most avoided specific reference to contraception or contraceptives.
Meanwhile, the region’s Democratic members of Congress – with the exception of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. -- were initially silent.
“Allowing corporate employers to dictate limits on their employees’ health insurance coverage threatens one of the most fundamental health rights in our country,” Durbin said. “Women and their families should be allowed to make this critical personal and private decision and not be subject to a for-profit employer’s personal, religious beliefs.
“I will introduce legislation that requires all corporations using this Supreme Court decision to deny or limit contraception services to disclose this policy to all employed and applicants for employment. Workers have a right to know if their employers are restricting the availability of a full range of family planning coverage.”
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