The U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday to hear a lawsuit against President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law filed by Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain whose owners object to providing employees with certain contraceptives covered by insurance.
David Green, who founded the 578-store company, claims the government cannot force him to provide his thousands of employees insurance covering morning-after pills and IUDs because of the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protects religious minorities, notably American Indians who use hallucinogenic cactus for ceremonies.
Hobby Lobby estimates it could face $1.3 million a day in penalties for violating the law, NBC News reports. The employer mandate of the law will take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
SCOTUS blog reports the Hobby Lobby case will likely be heard in March 2014. The case will be heard in conjunction with a lawsuit brought on by Mennonite business owners in Pennsylvania who have similar objections to the mandate.
In June the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, citing the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, which said corporations are entitled to First Amendment rights.
The Obama administration is standing behind the contraceptive mandate.
"We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women's health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union also supports the mandated contraceptive coverage.
"Everyone has a right to their religious beliefs, but religious freedom does not include the right to impose your beliefs on others," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, in a released statement. "It does not mean that businesses can refuse to comply with the law based on their religious beliefs, particularly where that means discriminating against their employees."
But some social conservatives consider morning-after pills - which can flush fertilized eggs from a woman's uterus - akin to abortion.
The Susan B. Anthony List, which aims to elect women who are opposed to abortion rights, released a statement applauding the Supreme Court for taking the case and denouncing the "HHS abortion drug mandate."
The Department of Health and Human Services received more public feedback on its contraceptives rule than on any other individual rule stemming from the health care law, The Sunlight Foundation reported in March.
The massive health care law first appeared before the Supreme Court in March 2012 , with opponents arguing unsuccessfully that the law's individual health insurance mandate is unconstitutional. That part of the law – under which penalties of $695 per person will be charged by 2016 – was declared a constitutionally permissible tax by the court June 28, 2012. The court did rule, however, that the law cannot force states to expand Medicaid eligibility.