The Supreme Court has been recently faced with the task of deciding whether employers with religious affiliations have to provide birth control to their employees. On Wednesday, debates over a resolution ended with four Supreme Court justices in support of requiring companies to provide contraception, and four against.
Currently, under Obamacare, companies that don’t want to provide contraception to their employees may request that it be funded and supplied through “a third party,” likely an insurance company itself, so that all employees still receive this essential health benefit. But a lot of companies think that even having to request that a third party take over violates their religious liberty.
This debate is a contentious one, as it involves issues of both religious and reproductive liberties. The court is required to rule on the issue by the end of June, but because of the split down the middle, it’s unclear where the justices will land. If they can’t get past the tie, the decisions of lower appeals courts would be upheld, and not much would change.
Justices not in support of the motion suggested that individuals be covered under the Affordable Care Act (in addition to whatever insurance they receive by their employer), so that conflicts of interest could be avoided—If you have both, you can just get whatever your employer won’t give you from the government. In response, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that when contraceptives are made easily accessible, “the number of unintended pregnancies dramatically falls, as does the number of abortions.” This reality would seem to appease concerns religious businesses might have, but clearly didn’t help unite the court.
According to conservative Justice Samuel Alito, to enact a policy requiring birth control and other contraceptives to be available to employees through their jobs’ health insurance providers would pose “an unprecedented threat to religious liberty” in the United States. But what about human rights? United States citizens aren’t all religious, but they are all human and deserving of the civil liberties citizens are granted.