Religious freedom rules for top US court as it decides firms don't have to fund contraceptives

Ruling could allow employers to discriminate against employees, jeopardising women's health

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 12:54am


A sharply divided US Supreme Court has ruled that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

It's the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

Monday's 5-4 decision, splitting conservatives and liberals, means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under the health insurance plans of objecting companies.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, over a dissent from the four liberal justices, that forcing companies to pay for methods of women's contraception to which they object violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

He said the ruling was limited and there were ways for the administration to ensure women get the birth control they want.

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the decision creates health risks for women and Congress should act to make sure they get coverage.

"President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them," Earnest said.