In a 5-4 split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that employers of for-profit organizations do not have to provide coverage to female employees for birth control under the Affordable Care Act requirements if it is against the organization's religious beliefs. For the first time ever, this ruling recognizes religious rights of corporations by protecting the religious freedoms of the people who own them, and is consistent with the Court's modern trend of recognizing corporations as "persons."
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor stated the majority opinion ignored the rights of women employed by businesses. They also worried the decision would open the door for corporations to abuse it, using the ruling to claim they do not have to provide other types of protections for their employees.
Though the court stated the ruling narrowly applies to contraception, it is yet to be seen whether corporations will take advantage of this, claiming that other types of required health overage are against their religious freedoms. It is not unlikely corporations will try to broaden this kind of ruling, using their newly created status as "persons" to claim other individual rights and freedoms.
In fairness, however, the ruling can be interpreted narrowly. First, the companies who brought the challenge did not have an objection to other forms of contraception that did not prevent embryos from implanting in the womb. So, while some methods of contraception were rejected, it appears that other methods will still be acceptable. Additionally, the ruling only applied to for-profit corporations. Smaller businesses, religious employers (churches) and groups and some insurance plans were already exempted from the contraception requirement before this decision came down.