(via: Reuters.com) The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering birth control for women. The decision, which applies only to a small number of family or other closely-held companies, means an estimated several thousand women whose health insurance comes via such companies may have to obtain certain forms of birth control coverage elsewhere.

In a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the justices said the companies can seek an exemption from the so-called birth control mandate of the law known as Obamacare. The companies in the case said they did not object to all birth control but certain methods they said were tantamount to abortion, which they oppose for religious reasons.

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The case has no bearing on the broader fate of the healthcare law and does not affect the vast majority of what the government estimates to be 29.7 million women who currently receive birth control coverage as a result of the law. The decision will affect similar cases brought by employers around the country. There are 49 cases in total, according to the Becket Fund. Religious institutions are already exempt from the requirement. There are fewer than 20,000 employees in total, including men and women, who work for companies that object to the mandate, according to the Reproductive Research Audit, a group that backs the objecting companies. The group concluded that of that 20,000, around 5,600 are likely to be women of child-bearing age.

The case was the second time that the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which extended healthcare insurance coverage to millions, had been before the court. In a landmark 2012 case, the justices upheld by a 5-4 vote the constitutionality of Obamacare’s core feature that requires people to get health insurance.

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