WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain privately held companies can — based on religious beliefs — avoid some contraceptive mandates of the Affordable Care Act.
Owners of Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-crafts stores had sued over a contraception provision in Obamacare requiring health plans to cover so-called morning after pills and IUDs. The owners argued that those forms of birth control went against their religious beliefs that life begins at conception.
The court, in a 5-4 decision, essentially found that closely held corporations are protected under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act from government actions that unnecessarily infringe on their religious practices.
The decision drew dueling responses from the Arkansas Senate campaigns.
"This ruling is a win for religious liberty," said Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. "Obamacare unconstitutionally forces some people of faith to violate the precepts of their faith."
Cotton criticized Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., for supporting the Affordable Care Act.
"Senator Pryor should be ashamed that he voted for Obamacare, which undermines and restricts religious liberty. Senator Pryor wasn’t working for Arkansas when he voted for this unconstitutional law: he was working for President Obama."
The latest ruling did not overturn an earlier Supreme Court decision validating the Affordable Care Act.
Pryor, through his campaign, also issued a statement on the decision that focused mainly on Cotton.
"As a person of faith, I understand the deeply held religious views of those who brought this suit forward," he said. "At the same time I cannot support Congressman Cotton’s irresponsible plan to return to the days when women paid more than men for basic health care services and folks were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, nor do I agree that we should kick more than 220,000 working Arkansans off of their private insurance plans."