WASHINGTON (AP) --- The Supreme Court ruled broadly Wednesday in favor of the religious rights of employers in two cases that could leave more than 70,000 women without free contraception and tens of thousands of people with no way to sue for job discrimination.
In both cases the court ruled 7-2, with two liberal justices joining conservatives in favor of the Trump administration and religious employers.
In the more prominent of the two cases, involving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the justices greenlighted changes the Trump administration had sought. The administration announced in 2017 that it would allow more employers to opt out of providing the no-cost birth control coverage required under the law, but lower courts had blocked the changes.
The ruling is a significant election-year win for President Donald Trump, who counts on heavy support from evangelicals and other Christian groups for votes and policy backing. It was also good news for the administration, which in recent weeks has seen headline-making Supreme Court decisions go against its positions.
The court’s birth-control decision was cheered by conservative groups, and White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany joined in. “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a big win for religious freedom and freedom of conscience,” she said in a statement.
Liberal groups and Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, decried the decision, which she called a “fundamental misreading” of the health care law. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the decision will make it “easier for the Trump-Pence Administration to continue to strip health care from women.”
The Trump administration is still seeking to overturn Obama’s Affordable Care Act in its entirety. It has joined Texas and other Republican-led states in calling on the justices to do just that. The case is scheduled to be argued in the court term that begins in October.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority of the court, said in Wednesday’s decision that the administration has the authority to make its birth-control coverage changes and followed appropriate procedures in doing so.
The government has estimated that the rule changes would cause between 70,000 women and 126,000 women to lose contraception coverage in one year.