How Joe Biden Helped Make the Case Against Obamacare's Contraceptive Requirement



When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli stands before the U.S. Supreme Court next month to defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act against the charge that it violates religious freedom by requiring employers to provide certain forms of birth control coverage, the Obama administration will be facing a surprising opponent in the case: former U.S. senator and current Vice President Joe Biden. As Robert Barnes explains in The Washington Post, then-Sen. Biden was one of many leading Democrats to support the passage of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the very law now being used to challenge Obamacare. Barnes writes:

When the RFRA was proposed, it had the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and religious lobbyists, rolled through Congress with near-unanimous support, and was happily signed by President Bill Clinton.

Now it is at the center of challenges against the contraceptive requirement. The Supreme Court next month will hear from arts-and-crafts giant Hobby Lobby and a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company named Conestoga Wood; owners of both enterprises say they run their businesses to reflect their deeply held religious beliefs.

The First Amendment holds that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion [the establishment clause] nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof [the free-exercise clause]." Against that backdrop, the cases raise important questions of separation of church and state, equal treatment for female workers, and whether corporations, a la Citizens United, have a right of religious expression to which the RFRA applies.

Read the whole thing here.

For a libertarian critique of the health care law's birth control requirement, see Jacob Sullum's "Obamacare and Contraception Exceptions."