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US High Court Sends Contraception Case Back to Lower Courts


FILE - The US Supreme Court in Washington.

The divided U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to the Obamacare provision requiring employers to pay for birth control for female workers, tossing the issue back to the lower courts.

The court on Monday unanimously refused to take a stand either in favor of or against the controversial provision. It urged the lower courts to re-examine the matter and search for a compromise between the Obama administration and employers.

Because of the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia in February, the court is split between four liberal and four conservative judges.

President Barack Obama told the website on Monday that a full court — nine justices — may have resulted in a difference outcome. But he said that for now, women can "still get contraception if they are getting health insurance."

Religious employees, including a charity called Little Sisters of the Poor, brought the challenge to the Supreme Court. They say making them pay for birth control violates their religious beliefs.

Obama said the health care law properly accommodates those who want to opt out of contraception.

Other cases

In other decisions Monday, the court refused to hear Exxon-Mobil's challenge to a $236 million jury verdict that a gasoline additive contaminated groundwater in New Hampshire. The oil giant unsuccessfully argued that gas stations and storage facilities were responsible.

The court also refused an appeal by cigarette maker Philip Morris against a $25 million award to the family of a female smoker killed by a lung cancer-related brain tumor.

The Oregon woman smoked a so-called "low tar" cigarette believing it to be less deadly than regular cigarettes. The family sued Philip Morris for fraud.