by Bill Mears
A key provision of the health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama came under harsh criticism from the conservative majority of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The justices debated a hotly contested issue testing the limits of government-mandated contraception coverage, specifically involving for-profit corporations that object to it for religious reasons.
The justices appeared divided along ideological lines in a 90-minute oral argument, with the federal government offering a spirited defense of the Affordable Care Act.
“How does a corporation exercise religion?” asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor, summarizing perhaps the key constitutional question at hand.
“This is a religious question,” said Justice Samuel Alito, suggesting the businesses have such a right. “You want us to provide a definitive secular answer.”
Before the hearing began, hundreds of demonstrators representing both sides of the issue rallied in front of the courthouse on Capitol Hill.
The court is reviewing provisions of the Affordable Care Act requiring for-profit employers of a certain size to offer insurance benefits for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay.
At issue is whether certain companies can refuse to do so on the sincere claim it would violate their owners’ long-established personal beliefs.