TODAY   |  March 25, 2014

High court to weigh Obamacare contraceptive rule

Should for-profit companies be required to provide contraceptives to their employees, if it violates the owner’s religious beliefs? That’s the question for the U.S. Supreme Court as it takes on cases challenging Obamacare. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> tamron's in for natalie this morning. and you've got a key argument before the supreme court .

>> yeah. this is a big day there. should for profit companies be required to provide free contraceptives for their employees if doing so violates the owner's religious beliefs ? that is the question before the u.s. supreme court as it takes on a couple of cases challenging the health care law . pete, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning. and to decide this issue, the supreme court 's going to have to answer a question it has never faced before. can a business, a for profit corporation claim it has freedom of religion ?

>> reporter: the challenge to the law comes from two big companies, the hobby lobby , a nationwide chain of more than 500 craft stores and conestoga wood. both are owned by families who believe that using certain kinds of contraceptives, including the morning after pill amounts to abortion. they say paying for insurance to cover those items would violate their religious beliefs .

>> this case is entirely, 100% about whether the government can coerce families to buy these life-destroying products and coverage for this for other people.

>> reporter: but the obama justice department argues that freedom of religion is a right of individuals and churches but not of profit-making companies. and women's groups say 98% of women in america use contraceptives at some point in their lives.

>> what's at stake here is the rights of millions of american women who use birth control versus the personal views of a handful of ceos.

>> reporter: the companies say the law requires them to violate their religious principles or pay millions in fines for failing to provide the coverage.

>> thank you very much.