The Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases brought by companies who say they have religious objections to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that they offer employees health insurance that includes contraception benefits.
In a statement released late Tuesday morning, justices say they have consolidated four related cases and will hear one hour of oral arguments. That will happen next year, likely in late March.
In a preview of the court's announcement, The Associated Press notes that "roughly 40 for-profit companies have sued, arguing they should not be forced to cover some or all forms of birth control because doing so would violate their religious beliefs." The wire service also writes that:
"Amid the troubled rollout of the health law, and 17 months after the justices upheld it, the Obama administration is defending [the] provision that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide a range of preventive health benefits, including contraception. ... Both sides want the justices to settle an issue that has divided lower courts."