By Elise Viebeck - 03/25/14 01:33 PM EDT
Republican lawmakers slammed ObamaCare's birth-control mandate as an unprecedented attack on religious freedom Tuesday after the Supreme Court appeared divided in oral arguments.
A group of eight GOP House members, led by four women, said the Obama administration is "going after" religious business owners and organizations for beliefs that teach against certain forms of birth control.
The administration's policy requires most employers to cover a range of birth-control methods in their workers' health insurance. Churches and houses of worship are exempt, and religiously affiliated organizations can accept a middle ground in which insurance companies provide and pay for the birth control directly.
Tuesday's case dealt with two for-profit companies with owners who oppose types of birth control they say can cause abortion. These firms face steep fines for refusing to comply with the coverage policy.
Rep. Michele BachmannMichele BachmannNo-shows at GOP convention Clinton camp: Trump VP pick is 'divisive,' 'unpopular' Lobbying world MORE (R-Minn.) claimed that 100 million people have been exempted from rules under ObamaCare, and argued the plaintiffs in the birth-control case deserve a carve-out, too.
"Family businesses should have freedom of expression for their religious liberty rights," Bachmann said. "It's only fair."
Republicans have rallied behind rhetoric of making ObamaCare "fair" for people who disagree with the law's requirements. The administration is vulnerable to criticism given its long list of delays and tweaks to the law's rollout.
One senior House lawmaker, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), attended the oral arguments and left confident that the justices would rule for the challengers.
"I think our side won the case," said Pitts, who represents one of the plaintiff's districts.
"Our side based our arguments on statute, primarily ... [and] when you listen to the questions and answers, the court is very respectful of Congress setting policy through statute. I really feel good about what I heard this morning."
Democratic lawmakers were expected to react later in the day at another event.
Supporters of the mandate argue that birth control is a vital preventive healthcare service, and that religious business owners should not impede female workers from obtaining it for free in their health plans, as the law allows.