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March 24. 2014 9:47PM

Supreme Court hears Hobby Lobby's birth control coverage challenge today


Hobby Lobby on South Willow Street in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based arts-and-crafts chain with a location in Manchester, goes to the U.S. Supreme Court today to challenge the Obamacare mandate that employer health care coverage include prescription birth control. The case has become a key flashpoint in issues involving the Affordable Care Act and religious liberty.

The Manchester location of Hobby Lobby is one of more than 500 across the country. In the federal court case, Sebelius vs Hobby Lobby, the privately held corporation says its owners hold strict religious beliefs that prevent them from paying for birth control methods — specifically emergency contraception and IUD — which could result in the destruction of human life. The case has become a key flashpoint in issues involving the Affordable Care Act and religious liberty.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed briefs in the case.

According to the website hobbylobbycase.com, a host of organizations have filed in support of Hobby Lobby, including U.S. Catholic bishops, some Jewish organizations, the Mormon church, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and some physician groups.

“The owners are essentially inserting themselves between a woman and her doctor,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union.

Bissonnette said his organization supports the rights of the owners to practice their religious beliefs, but they should not be able to impose them on their employees.

“We face an ongoing fight over access to birth control in this country,” said Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. She and Bissonnette spoke during a telephone news conference Monday in anticipation of today’s arguments. In a recorded video on hobbylobbycase.com, the founders of the company — David and Barbara Green — said they are not trying to take away anyone’s birth control.

“It’s not about whether women can take it or not; we’re not trying to control that,” said co-founder Barbara Green. “We’re just trying to control our participation in it.”

The video said full-time, entry-level workers earn a starting pay that exceeds the minimum wage by 90 percent. The Manchester location is the only Hobby Lobby in New Hampshire, according to the company website.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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