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Supreme Court to rule on health reform law's birth control mandate Monday


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday plans to issue its long-awaited ruling on the legality of a health care reform law provision requiring private employers to provide prescription contraceptive coverage to their employees.

The high court announced Thursday that it will hold the final session for its October 2013 term on Monday, during which it will hand down opinions in all remaining cases argued during the term.

In all likelihood, that will include a ruling in two cases challenging the federal government's authority to enforce a controversial provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide their group health benefit plan members with cost-free insurance coverage for contraceptive prescriptions and services.

The companies challenging the rule — Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. — have argued that private employers with religious objections to the use of birth control should be exempt from the provision on the grounds that the requirement violates their rights to free expression of religion under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Oral arguments in both cases were presented together in March. The nine justices of the Supreme Court appeared in their examinations of the rule and its impact on private businesses, devoting most of their deliberations in the 90-minute hearing to the threshold question of whether corporations are owed legal protection from enforcement of federal laws based on the religious views of their owners or executives.