A ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court that some corporations have the right to withhold free coverage for certain contraceptives based on religious objections is likely to have little immediate effect on Maine employers or women who work for them.

The 5-4 decision addressed a mandate in the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act that required employers to provide free coverage for contraceptives to female employees on the companies’ health plans. The court found that the mandate violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

It is the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law, The Associated Press reported.

Advocates for the contraception mandate say the ruling allows companies to discriminate against women based on the employers’ religious beliefs.

However, the ruling on Monday does not affect a Maine law passed in 1999 that requires insurance providers in Maine to include contraception coverage if their plans also include prescription or outpatient care, a Maine lawyer said.

That means companies in Maine, regardless of their size or the owners’ religious beliefs, will still have to provide contraception coverage if they purchase insurance for their employees from a large carrier, said Zach Heiden, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

“Maine businesses would have to follow Maine law,” Heiden said. “The decision (Monday) represents a carve-out of a federal statute. But the knives don’t come anywhere near the Maine statute.”

It’s not clear how many companies in Maine have owners with sincerely held religious beliefs against contraception, employ more than 50 people, the minimum size for the ACA mandate to apply to a business; and are “closely held” – meaning they are owned or controlled by members of a single family, or their stock is owned by just a few individuals. Heiden estimated only a small number of Maine companies fall into these categories, but didn’t know the exact number. The ruling does not affect publicly traded companies.

Five of the justices ruled that the ACA’s contraception requirement substantially burdened the right of Hobby Lobby and another company to exercise their religious freedom.

Although the impact in Maine is expected to be minimal, advocates for women’s reproductive rights called the ruling chilling.

“It’s incredible that in 2014, we are still fighting about whether or not a woman should have access to birth control,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in a statement. “To the majority of Americans, birth control is not a controversial issue. It’s basic health care.”

Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said the court’s decision was wrong.

“The Constitution gives us all the right to our religious beliefs, but it does not give individuals the right to impose their beliefs on others,” Beyea said.

In Maine, the statute defines contraceptives as any medications approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The state law does have an exemption that allows some religious organizations to opt out of contraception coverage. It applies only to churches or groups of churches, and religiously based elementary and secondary schools.

Edward F. Feibel, a Portland-based attorney with the law firm Eaton Peabody, said the narrow exception in the state statute could embolden private employers to challenge the state exemption.

“It seems to me it opens the door,” Feibel said. “It would at least provide a Maine employer grounds to argue that, notwithstanding an insurance code mandate, that the exclusion under Maine law is too narrow, that the state can’t limit the exclusion in the way that it has.”

Contraception is among a range of preventive medical services that must be provided at no extra charge under the federal health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later. Among the companies that challenged the contraceptive requirement was Oklahoma-based crafts chain Hobby Lobby, which has one store in the state, located in Bangor.

Although it employs more than 13,000 people, Hobby Lobby is controlled by only a few members of one family, meaning it is “closely held.”

The decision was hailed by conservative organizations that said the contraceptive mandate was an overreach by the federal government.

“The Supreme Court has delivered one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a statement. “We are thankful the Supreme Court agreed that the government went too far by mandating that family businesses owners must violate their consciences under threat of crippling fines.”

Barbara Green, the co-founder of Hobby Lobby, also hailed the decision.

“Today, the nation’s highest court has reaffirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles,” she said in a statement. “The court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith.”

Maine’s law requiring the inclusion of contraceptives in group and individual health plans covers broader ground than the list of specific contraceptive methods that was required to be covered by the ACA. In its suit, Hobby Lobby objected to four of the contraceptive methods that the company’s owners believed kept a fertilized egg from successfully implanting in the womb, which they had argued violated its belief that life begins at conception.

Monday’s decision does not throw out the birth control mandate by the federal government in its entirety, but means the government must find a way to pay for the contraceptive care.

Previously, the federal government had granted exemptions to the mandate for nonprofit groups with religious affiliations. The court suggested in its ruling that the government could either grant more of those exclusions, or pay for the contraceptive care outright.

Planned Parenthood estimates that 30 million women across the country will still be eligible for free contraceptive coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, and the vast majority will not be affected by the ruling.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a dissent that she read from the bench, said that contraceptive care is vital to women’s health and reproductive freedom. She also hinted that the decision could allow companies to challenge almost any regulations they object to.

“The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths,” Ginsburg wrote.

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