The Supreme Court decided not to decide Monday whether religious objectors must play a role in offering contraceptive coverage to their employees, instead sending seven cases back to federal appeals courts in search of an elusive compromise.
The unanimous ruling appeared to be another example of the eight-member court’s inability to settle cases in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and the impasse between President Obama and Senate Republicans over his replacement. It left both religious challengers and women’s rights groups warily predicting victory.
By sending a series of disputes over the Affordable Care Act’s so-called ‘contraceptive mandate’ back to lower courts, the justices all but assured that the issue will not get resolved before a new president is elected, which in turn could portend even greater changes for Obamacare.
“I won’t speculate as to why they punted, but my suspicion is that if we had nine Supreme Court justices instead of eight, there might have been a different outcome,” Obama told the web site BuzzFeed in a live-streamed interview.