In oral arguments, contraception mandate appears to divide Supreme Court

During this morning's 90-minute oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the justices seemed divided, The New York Times reported.

The three female justices from the court's liberal wing questioned whether giving corporations religious exemptions from providing contraception coverage would extend to other medical treatments--such as vaccinations and blood transfusions, according to The Wall Street Journal live blog.

"You would see religious objectors coming out of the woodwork," said Justice Elena Kagan, Reuters reported. Kagan suggested companies would be able to object on religious grounds to laws on Social Security, minimum wage, sex discrimination and child labor.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Kagan also noted that companies objecting to the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate can avoid the contraception issue by choosing to pay the tax rather than providing coverage to their employees.

While Hobby Lobby isn't forced to provide healthcare coverage, not doing so would make it difficult to attract workers and would require the company to increase wages, according to Hobby Lobby's lawyer Paul Clement and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, according to the WSJ.

Sotomayor raised the issue of how to determine the depth and sincerity of a corporation's religious beliefs while Justice Anthony Kennedy asked how the court should consider the religious views of employees, which may differ from those of their employer, the WSJ noted.

Kennedy, seen as a swing vote, expressed concern about requiring Hobby Lobby to provide coverage given the many exemptions and accommodations the government has offered to other groups, the Times noted.

The high court's decision isn't expected until June, although Reuters already expects most of the justices will rule corporations have a right to religious claims. Similarly, an article in the National Review predicted  a 6-3 victory for Hobby Lobby.

As the industry waits months for a ruling, the most recent WSJ/NBC News poll found 53 percent of Americans support requiring employers that oppose the use of birth control to include contraception coverage in employee health plans. Meanwhile, a new Hart Research Associates' national survey follows suit, showing a large majority of women voters strongly object to giving religious exemptions for corporations.

For more:
- read the Times  article
- check out the WSJ live blogging and poll
- here's the Reuters article and tweet
- check out the Hart Research survey (.pdf)
- read the National Review article

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