High Court Will Hear Challenge to Birth Control Mandate

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The Supreme Court has decided to take up the question of whether President Barack Obama's health care law violates religious freedom by mandating coverage for all forms of birth control, including abortion-inducing drugs.

The issue has divided the lower courts.

Roughly 40 for-profit companies have filed lawsuits asking to be exempt from having to cover some or all forms of contraception under Obamacare.

The companies say they have religious objections to subsidizing birth control for their employees. The mandated coverage includes emergency contraceptives like Plan B and Ella, as well as intrauterine devices.

The Supreme Court will consider two cases, one filed by Hobby Lobby Inc. and one filed by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.

Hobby Lobby is an arts-and-craft chain based in Oklahoma City with 13,000 full-time employees. The company opposes both the contraceptives and the devices because its owners believe life begins at conception.

Emergency contraceptives can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. The company won its case in the lower courts.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups tell the court that the scientific and legal definition of pregnancy begins with implantation, not fertilization.

However, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Catholic Medical Association and others, maintain in a separate filing that "it is scientifically undisputed that a new human organism begins at fertilization."

Conestoga Wood lost its case in the lower courts. The Pennsylvania company makes wood cabinets and employs 950 people.

Arguments will likely take place in March with a decision expected in June.

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