By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that some business owners are not required to provide birth control coverage to employees puts women's health at risk, the White House said on Monday, and called on Congress to make contraception widely available.
"Today's decision jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a briefing.
"We will work with Congress to make sure that any women affected by this decision will still have the same coverage of vital health services as everyone else," he said.
Earnest urged Congress to act to ensure that contraceptive care is widely available and said President Barack Obama would consider whether he can act on his own to ensure such coverage is available to all women. "The owners of for-profit companies should not be allowed to assert their personal religious views to deny their employees federally mandated benefits," Earnest said.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of Obama's healthcare law that requires closely held private companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control. The decision applies only to companies owned by a small number of individuals.
The president is still reviewing the legal and practical implications of the court decision, including which companies are covered by it and how many employees are affected, the spokesman said. "As we gather some more information, we may be in a position to better consider the range of options that are available to the president," Earnest said. "It is our view... that Congress needs to take action to solve this problem."
(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal and Annika McGinnis; Editing by Doina Chiacu)