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Court's Contraception Decision Generates Strong Reaction in Maine

Women's rights advocates in Maine are condemning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that allows family-owned corporations to refuse to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

"The Constitution gives us all the right to our religious beliefs, but it does not give individuals the right to impose their beliefs on others," says Alison Beyea, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, in a statement. "The Court got it wrong in ruling otherwise today."

The justices' 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. The case originated with challenges to the law by Hobby Lobby Stories, Inc, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation.

The decision means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.

"Birth control is important preventative health care for women and is used for a variety of health care including endometriosis, migraines, menstrual regulation, and family planning," says Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. "That's why we will continue to work to make sure all women have access to affordable birth control without any barriers in their way."

Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree is the first member of Maine's congressional delegation to respond to the landmark ruling, which some say has implications beyond the dispute over contraception.

"I'm extremely disappointed that the court has held the power of corporations over the rights of women to make their own health care decisions," Pingree says in a statement. "Health insurance is a benefit that these employees have earned, and their policies should cover birth control because it's a fundamental part of a woman's health.  Whether she uses it should be up to her alone - not her employer's board of directors.  The Supreme Court has again furthered the notion that corporations are people that can use their power and so-called rights to supersede those of individuals."

In 2014, the Maine Legislature rejected a bill that would have allowed profit-seeking business to hold religious views.

UPDATE 12:22 pm ET: Maine 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who is also running for governor has issued the following statement:

“I’m disappointed by today’s ruling and believe it is an affront to a woman’s right to access basic healthcare services,” said Michaud. “I have the utmost respect for religious freedom – it is one of the defining principles of our nation. However, I believe today’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent that opens up the door to discrimination in the workplace under the guise of religion. Unfortunately, this is not the direction in which we should be moving.”

This story will be updated with more reaction, as it comes in.