A setback came Monday for Obamacare in a ruling that certain for-profit businesses are not required to pay for specific kinds of contraceptives for workers.
The United States Supreme Court 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.
While supporters of the decision reacted gleefully in the moment, Northstate healthcare workers were disappointed but not devastated.
"California women for the most part are pretty protected," said Planned Parenthood Senior Regional Director Chris Bayless.
But after declaring the Affordable Care Act constitutional roughly two years ago the justices made a key decision in a different direction. At the Women's Resource Clinic in Chico, a pro-life organization, officials are agreeing.
"A company or a people shouldn't have to pay for it. If someone wants it I think that the person that wants it should have to pay for it,” said executive director Brenda Dowdin. “
Dowdin said it is not a health issue but a moral one.
The ruling applies only to corporations that are controlled by just a few people. It essentially is limited to those organizations in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners.
In the state of California the worry is waning.
According to Planned Parenthood, that is because there is nothing in Monday's decision to make the California law vulnerable.
“Most women in California should not have to be concerned that their contraceptive coverage is going to disappear. It should remain intact," Bayless said.
The Women’s Contraception Equity Act was signed in 1999 by then Gov. Gray Davis. It ensures birth control access through state-regulated employer health plans. Bayless said that while there may be a financial incentive to deny coverage preventative cost is more reasonable. Bayless said birth control cost can range from $600 to $1,000 a year depending on the method.
"It would be much cheaper and much less expensive in my opinion to provide the contraception coverage than to have women go through and unwanted pregnancy," she said.
Dowdin said she is seeing the business’ perspective and noticing a change in feeling post-Obamacare.
"I think that they're starting to rise up and say, you know what, let me make the choice. Don't tell me what I have to do," Dowdin said.
According to the Obama administration the decision jeopardizes the health of women employed by these companies as a whole. Opponents to the ruling believe it could open the door to even more legal challenges to Obamacare.
Bayless wonders why women should ever have to enter the battle.
"It's pretty unbelievable that in 2014, across the United States, we still have to fight for rights to birth control,” she said.
According to Planned Parenthood, Monday’s decision applies to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that does not trump state law. The California law does already allow for a narrow exclusion for religious employers such as churches.