- (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
The Obama administration has responded to Monday's Supreme Court decision to allow for-profit corporations with certain religious convictions like Hobby Lobby to opt-out of part of the "Obamacare" birth-control mandate, by arguing that it jeopardizes women's health.
"President [Barack] Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
"Today's decision jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies. As millions of women know firsthand, contraception is often vital to their health and wellbeing. That's why the Affordable Care Act ensures that women have coverage for contraceptive care, along with other preventative care like vaccines and cancer screenings."
In a five to four decision on Monday, the highest court in the land ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to privately owned businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods Specialties, though the decision was narrowed to only the contraceptive mandate.
Conservative groups have praised the ruling as a major victory for religious freedom in the U.S.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said in a statement that the decision "shows that religious freedom continues to be the lifeblood of a country founded on the inalienable rights afforded to us by our Creator."
"Religious groups and business owners should not have to violate their faith in order to follow the law. It's not the role of government to define what we believe or what our faith includes," Daly added.
"Fundamentally these cases were not about abortion or contraception: they were about whether government can require faith-based groups to violate deeply held beliefs."
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, added that Hobby Lobby decision was "a win for everyone."
"Here's why. A government that can pave over the consciences of the Greens can steamroll over any dissent anywhere," wrote Moore.
"Whether you agree or disagree with us about abortion, every American should want to see a government that is not powerful enough to set itself up as a god over the conscience."
Oral Roberts University President William M. Wilson argued that in its decision, the Supreme Court showed "dedication to Biblical principles."
Wilson said: "This is a significant statement from the highest court in the land in support of the rights of both for-profit and not-for-profit Christian institutions."
In Monday's press briefing, Earnest insisted that Obama also believes in the freedom of religion.
"That's why we've taken steps to ensure that no religious institution will have to pay or provide for contraceptive coverage. We've also made accommodations for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds. But we believe that the owners of for-profit companies should not be allowed to assert their personal religious views to deny their employees federally mandated benefits," the press secretary said.
He added that the Obama administration will respect the Supreme Court ruling but will continue to "look for ways to improve Americans' health by helping women have more, not less, say over the personal health decisions that affect them and their families."
When asked by journalists to clarify what options the Obama administration will be considering to make sure women have access to free contraceptives, Earnest noted that the White House will first assess the decision and its legal implications before considering the options available to the President.