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Justice Kennedy could be key to Supreme Court decision on birth control

Tuesday - 3/25/2014, 4:00pm  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Do profit-making businesses have religious rights?

The Supreme Court is wrestling with that question in a case that involves two family-owned companies. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties provide health insurance to their employees but object to covering certain methods of birth control -- coverage that is required under the health care law. They say contraceptives that work after conception violate their religious beliefs.

The outcome could turn on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voiced concerns during today's 90-minute arguments about the rights of female employees, as well as the rights of business owners. At one point he questioned what rights women would have if their employers required them to wear conservative Islamic robes. Later in the argument he seemed troubled about how the logic of the government's argument would apply to abortions.

The three women on the court questioned whether blood transfusions and vaccinations would be subject to the same religious objections if the court ruled in favor of the businesses.

Chief Justice John Roberts at one point suggested the court could limit its ruling to apply to family owned companies.

%@AP Links

209-a-09-(Paul Clement, attorney for Hobby Lobby, with reporters)-"to be vindicated"-Hobby Lobby attorney Paul Clement says the law permits the owners of the company to follow their religious convictions, regardless of the health care act mandate. (25 Mar 2014)

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161-a-17-(Dr. Mark Hathaway, Ob-Gyn and director of family planning, Unity Health Care, addressing rally)-"underfunded and overburdened"-Dr. Mark Hathaway, an Ob-Gyn and director of family planning for Unity Health Care, says there aren't good alternatives to contraception coverage. (25 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO DCCD104: Paul Clement, attorney for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, center, stands with attorney David Cortman, right, as they speak to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, after the court heard oral arguments in the challenges of President Barack Obama's health care law requirement that businesses provide their female employees with health insurance that includes access to contraceptives. Supreme Court justices are weighing whether corporations have religious rights that exempt them from part of the new health care law that requires coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (25 Mar 2014)

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