The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the owners of private companies should be allowed to use deeply held religious beliefs against abortion to avoid a government mandate to provide health insurance for their workers that includes contraceptives at no extra cost.
The country's highest court took up the issue Tuesday. It is a case where the owners of two companies -- a chain of hobby stores and a furniture maker -- claim the government's edict that the workers' insurance include some types of birth control would violate their religious views.
Demonstrators participate in a rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenges of President Barack Obama's health care law requirement that businesses provide their female employees with health insurance that includes access to contraceptives.
In the U.S., the freedom to practice one's religion is guaranteed by the country's constitution. But the question in dispute is whether that guarantee extends to corporations, not just individuals.
The dispute over the birth control provision is the latest in a series of contentious debates in the U.S. over national health care reforms. The overall law, President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, has been upheld by the court, but many Republicans oppose it and numerous court suits have been filed contesting specific provisions.
The court is not expected to rule on the birth control insurance provision until June.