Today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., the Supreme Court decided 5-4 that “closely held” for-profit corporations have a right to religiously object to government regulations, in this case the so-called “contraceptive mandate” of the Affordable Care Act, which requires businesses over a certain size to cover FDA-approved contraceptives in their employee insurance plans.
The Court was careful to limit the healthcare implications to contraception, writing: “This decision… should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g. for vaccinations or blood transfusions must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.”
As the Court repeatedly states in the decision, the plaintiffs believe that “life begins at conception.” But what does that actually mean? For those who believe that life begins at conception, the question then becomes this: What specific point in the reproductive process counts as “conception?”
This case centers around specific religious objections to contraceptives that prevent an egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus, which plaintiffs believe are tantamount to abortion. Out of the 20 Food and Drug Adminstration-approved birth control methods, the two companies involved in the case—Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood—object to four: two kinds of emergency contraceptive or “morning after” pills, and two types of intrauterine devices, or IUDs.