Supreme Court

By Greg Stohr
August 01, 2013

The legality of the Affordable Care Act appeared settled when the Supreme Court upheld the law last year. Not so, it turns out.

Scores of lawsuits around the country are targeting parts of Obamacare, making another high court showdown all but inevitable and raising the possibility that some provisions in the health-care overhaul could be dismantled. “This law is going to be litigated up and down for years,” says Jonathan Adler, who directs the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve School of Law.

The next clash may be over the requirement that employer-provided insurance plans include contraceptive coverage; a case involving that issue could reach the high court this year. Hobby Lobby, a family-run craft store chain, and at least 34 other companies have sued for an exemption. They say the birth-control mandate violates their religious freedom, forcing them to provide something they consider immoral. “The government has plenty of other ways to deliver these drugs,” says Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The group represents Hobby Lobby, whose owners say they run the company “consistent with Biblical principles.”

The core legal question is whether companies can assert the same rights as people—the very issue that drove an ideological wedge through the court in the 2010 Citizens United case, which cleared the way for corporations to spend unlimited sums on political campaigns, just as individuals can. The Obama administration says for-profit corporations aren’t covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is designed to protect the rights of “a person.” One federal appeals court backed Hobby Lobby in June; in late July, a different appeals court rejected a similar claim by a Mennonite-owned cabinet maker in Pennsylvania, Conestoga Wood Specialties. The at-odds rulings create the type of lower court division that often triggers Supreme Court review.

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