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Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Birth Control

UPDATED June 30, 2014: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that owners of some for-profit, private corporations can deny coverage of birth control to their staff because of their personal religious beliefs.

Note: The name of the case was changed from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby when Sylvia Burwell became the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it is taking up cases brought by two for-profit corporations that have claimed they have a right to deny their employees birth control under their health insurance plans: Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores with 21,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet manufacturer.

What the Court decides could set a dangerous precedent for millions, allowing businesses to deny their employees a whole host of other medical procedures to which they are legally entitled, based solely on their personal beliefs — procedures and treatments like vaccines, surgeries, blood transfusions, or mental health care. 

In total, more than 40 for-profit companies – most of them owned by men – have filed similar lawsuits, advancing an extreme argument that they should be able to impose their personal beliefs about birth control, including that it is equivalent to abortion (which is simply untrue, as a medical and scientific matter).

Birth control is basic, preventive health care that millions of women rely on every day. Over 99 percent of sexually active women use birth control at some point in their lives, for a wide variety of reasons. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are now required to cover contraception with no out-of-pocket cost, a landmark step for women's health that gives many women access to affordable birth control for the first time. Twenty-seven million women have already benefited from this provision and millions more stand to gain coverage starting on January 1. People who are getting new health insurance through Obamacare will also get the benefit once their coverage starts.