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Local reactions mixed on U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows companies to opt out of contraceptive coverage

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that businesses can opt out of paying for contraceptives mandated under the Affordable Care Act — including morning-after pills and intrauterine devices, or IUDs — if it’s against their religious beliefs.

Local residents had mixed reactions to the 5-4 ruling, with some viewing the outcome as a victory for freedom of religious expression while others argued that the decision puts women’s health at risk.

“I think Obamacare is a really good thing. We need it,” said Adam Jones, Watertown. “But the government shouldn’t be allowed to push its values to companies. I don’t think that’s right.”

Mr. Jones said he and his wife, Tammy, are both Catholics and agree with the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby chain, which challenged President Barack Obama’s health care law, arguing that it violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“I completely disagree with that. As a female, that’s a health issue. It’s just as important as anything else. I definitely appreciate the options,” Watertown resident Kayla Brown said.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the “RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith.”

This is the first time the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

Nearly 50 businesses have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like those involved in the Supreme Court case, are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized. Other companies object to paying for any form of birth control.

The contraceptives at issue before the court were the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, and two IUDs.

The court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners.

Jessica Smith, Adams, said that she agrees with the Supreme Court’s ruling and that companies shouldn’t be forced to pay for their employees’ lifestyle choices.

“I don’t agree with morning-after pills anyway,” she said.

Chief Justice John Roberts, whose swing vote ultimately upheld the Affordable Care Act two years ago, once again cast the pivotal vote Monday, this time siding with the four justices who would have struck down the act.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion that the ruling is limited and there are ways for the administration to ensure women get the birth control they want.

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