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Does the Hobby Lobby ruling apply to all birth control?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

The full implications of Monday's Hobby Lobby ruling remain hazy.

On Tuesday, AP reported that the Supreme Court issued orders confirming that their ruling applies to all forms of birth control, including standard birth control pills. Some outlets previously reported that the decision only applied to IUDs and emergency contraception (like Plan B), which were the forms of contraception opposed by the plaintiffs.

AP may be overstating the Supreme Court's orders.

What the Supreme Court did was send three cases back to lower courts for reconsideration in light of the Hobby Lobby decision. In those cases, Catholic businesses opposed covering any forms of birth control, not just IUDs and emergency contraception.

Those lower courts need to decide whether Justice Alito's opinion relieves the employers in question of the responsibility to cover any birth control, or whether the ruling was limited to the IUDs and emergency contraceptives that Hobby Lobby opposed.

Some Catholic corporations claim providing any birth control is a "substantial burden" on their sincerely-held faith. If the courts accept that, the case turns on whether the government has a "compelling interest" in providing standard birth control pills and whether there is an available alternative that is less burdensome to religious employers.

The biggest question here is whether it is less of a "burden" to provide conventional birth control compared to IUDs and emergency contraception (because the plaintiffs don't necessarily believe that conventional birth control acts as an abortifacient).

The fact that the administration crafted an accommodation for religious nonprofits that included conventional birth control means that the cases may be more likely to go in favor of the Catholic employers. That accommodation proves that there is a way to provide employees with coverage that infringes less on the employers' beliefs.

When the lower courts reconsider the cases from Catholic employers, they will be responsible for determining the full scope of the Hobby Lobby decision, though if the lower courts disagree, then the cases will be appealed up to the Supreme Court.

You can learn more about the Hobby Lobby case here.