Nightly News   |  March 25, 2014

SCOTUS Clashes Over Obamacare Contraception Coverage

The U.S. Supreme Court took up the most closely-watched question of the term: does the Obamacare law violate religious freedom?

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>>> the u.s. supreme court took on health care and religion, specifically this. does the obama care health law violate the religious freedom of employers by requiring them to provide insurance for contraceptives? our justice correspondent pete williams with us from the court tonight, pete, good evening.

>> good evening, this legal battle presents the court with a question that's never been asked before. does a business, a for profit corporation have the right to claim it has religious freedom ? outside the court today, strong passions.

>> people united will never be defeated.

>> reporter: among those in the crowd, two women drawn to the showdown for opposite reasons.

>> did you come here specifically because of this case?

>> yes. the basic freedoms that america stands for are at stake. religious freedom is the first freedom guaranteed by the constitution.

>> what's big for me is the right of men and women to plan their own families at the time when they can best afford to have children.

>> two for profit corporations, conestoga wood and the hobby lobby , a family owned chain of arts and crafts stores say providing insurance coverage for some contraceptions amounts to abortion. they can claim religious freedom .

>> just because you're engaged in a business and trying to make some profit, doesn't mean you leave all your religious beliefs at the door. you see this with prominent companies that are closed on sunday.

>> reporter: freedom of religion is a right of individual, not corporations. and that contraceptives are essential to preventative care .

>> this case is basically about whether an employer, because of their own personal views can pick and choose which laws they want to adhere to and which they don't.

>> the court's three women justices questioned the company the hardest, could an employer refuse to provide coverage for blood transfusions or vaccines on religious grounds. what about refusing to pay the minimum wage or owe buy child labor laws . anthony kennedy seemed conflicted. do the religious views of the employer trump the right of employees putting them at a disadvantage? he challenges the government saying, under its view of for profit corporation, could be forced to pay for abortion.

>> the court may end up saying the closely held family businesses can get exceptions based on religious views that would not be the sweeping ruling that opponents of obama care were hoping for.

>> pete williams at the court, we'll see you in a couple months.