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“The Majority Has Ventured Into A Minefield”: Here Are The Highlights Of Justice Ginsburg’s Fiery Hobby Lobby Dissent

On Monday morning, the Supreme Court finally released its much-anticipated decision on the Hobby Lobby case, a decision that lived up to expectations by being split along ideological lines (the court’s five conservatives overruling its four liberals) and severely weakening Obamacare’s birth control mandate.

Also living up to expectations? Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, which excoriated the court’s majority for its ruling, describing it as a “radical” decision “of startling breadth” that would have chaotic and major unintended consequences. You can read her dissent in full here (it starts at page 60) but we’ve also compiled some of its best, key parts.

Ginsburg opens with a bang, immediately describing the decision as one that will have sweeping consequences:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

She frames the decision as one that denies women access to healthcare, rather than as one that upholds religious liberty:

The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.

In a similar vein, she rejects that the birth control mandate should be seen as an act of government coercion, describing it instead as one that provides women with the ability to make their own choice:

Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults. 

She affirms her belief that religious organizations and for-profit corporations serve fundamentally different purposes and have fundamentally different rights (and throws some shade at the majority in the process):

Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.

She claims that the majority has actually undermined the very principle, religious freedom, it claimed in its ruling to have upheld:

Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.

She writes that the majority has pushed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act past its original intent:

In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious     beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, June 30, 2014

 

 

July 1, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Remedial Education On Birth Control”: It Never Fails, Arrogance And Ignorance Often Go Together

You’d really think that an institution with as rich an intellectual history and educational capacity as the Roman Catholic Church could find ways to keep its national spokespeople from saying things as dumb as this:

Is the ability to buy contraceptives, that are now widely available — my Lord, all you have to do is walk into a 7-11 or any shop on any street in America and have access to them — is that right to access those and have them paid for, is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights of conscience?

That would be Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, on Face the Nation yesterday. It was Dolan who, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 until 2013, guided the bishops into a firm alliance with conservative evangelicals (and implicitly, with the Republican Party) in a crusade for “religious liberty” defined as the right of employers to refuse their employees insurance coverage for contraceptives–typically those they regard, in defiance of standard medical profession and scientific definitions, as “abortifacients.”

Dolan’s dismissive comments about contraceptives and 7-11’s are reminiscent of those of conservative Catholic layperson Justice Antonin Scalia, who said this during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case:

You’re talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?

Well, yes, IUDs, the real crux of the “abortifacient” argument being made by Hobby Lobby’s lawyers, are quite expensive, and you cannot simply acquire them by strolling into a convenience store.

Arrogance and ignorance often go together, but you’d figure men as accomplished as Dolan and Scalia would have the wherewithal to avoid sounding like yahoos. Men–especially celibate men like Dolan–should go to the trouble of becoming at least marginally expert on reproductive science and economics before devoting so much of their time and attention to denying women reproductive rights.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Catholic Church, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Catholic Nuns Back Obamacare Contraception Access”: It Isn’t Freedom When Women Are Held Hostage

The National Coalition of American Nuns has announced their support for women’s right to access contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the historic Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases. While the plaintiffs in these cases are Mennonites and evangelical Christians, opposition to the contraceptive mandate was largely spearheaded by the Catholic bishops. Several key cases of Catholic non-profits, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, are making their way through the lower courts and may well end up in the Supreme Court themselves.

“NCAN is dismayed that the Little Sisters of the Poor, the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act. Spurred on by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops these organizations are attempting to hold hostage all women by refusing insurance to them for contraceptives,” said the 2,000-member group in a statement.

“This has gotten out of hand,” Sister Donna Quinn, head of NCAN, told RD. “It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.”

The nuns are seeking support for their stand through an online petition. The Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute is helping NCAN coordinate the effort. “When I saw the brave stand these nuns were taking on the mandate, I started to think about what we could do to amplify their voices. So we launched a social media campaign asking people to ‘Stand with the Nuns’,” she said.

“We really need to counter the idea that faith is opposed to family planning,” said Haffner, who’s also helping to coordinate a Faith Rally at the Supreme Court on March 25, the day of the oral arguments for the mandate challenges. “All too often the media only shows a Catholic bishop to offer the faith perspective. More than 14 major religious denominations have statements supporting birth control and birth control access. People need to understand that this is not only an affront to women’s moral agency but opens the door to denying a whole range of services, from other kinds of reproductive health care to services to LGBT people,” she said.

NCAN has a long history of reproductive justice and Catholic reform activism. Quinn has volunteered as an abortion clinic escort and was one of the leaders of a delegation of women religious to Rome 1994 to hold a parallel discussion about the role of women religious during the bishops’ synod on religious life, which largely excluded women.

 

By: Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches, March 14, 2014

March 17, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Contraception, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sending A Strong Message”: Oklahoma Judge Permanently Strikes Down State Restrictions On Emergency Contraception

An Oklahoma district court judge ruled late Wednesday to permanently strike down an unconstitutional state law restricting women and girls’ access to emergency contraception. Judge Lisa Davis found that the law violated the state’s “single-subject rule,” which prohibits legislators from addressing unrelated issues in one law.

Oklahoma politicians added a provision restricting women and girls’ access to a law focused on regulating health insurance benefit forms. The measure required women to provide proof of age in order to obtain emergency contraception, and required anyone under the age of 17 to have a prescription to access emergency contraception. Prior to the ruling striking down the measure, Oklahoma was one of nine states with laws restricting women’s access to Plan B One-Step and other generic emergency contraceptives.

“This unconstitutional provision was nothing more than an attempt by hostile politicians to stand in the way of science and cast aside their state’s constitution to block women’s access to safe and effective birth control,” said David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group behind the legal challenge.

“We hope the court’s ruling sends yet another strong message to politicians in Oklahoma that these underhanded tactics are as unconstitutional and deceptive as they are harmful to women in their state.”

In November, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Oklahoma’s appeal seeking to reinstate its law banning medication abortions, which was also found to be unconstitutional by a lower court.

 

By: Katie McDonough, Salon, January 24, 2014

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Reproductive Rights, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Was Huckabee Talking About?”: I Can Hardly Believe That I Share The Same Country With The Man

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus invited former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to be the keynote speaker at the RNC’s winter meeting, but it appears that he regrets that decision:

Priebus responded to Huckabee’s comments, telling the Washington Post, “I don’t know what he was talking about. Sort of a goofy way of using some phrases. Not the way I would have phrased it.”

I don’t know what Mike Huckabee was talking about, either. When he was serving as governor, Huckabee signed a law mandating that health insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage, and he made no exceptions for religious institutions. And, despite the fact that his hero Jesus was quite clear that he had nothing but the harshest contempt for hypocrites, Huckabee is now behaving as if contraceptive coverage in health care plans is some kind of violation of people’s religious rights.

His actual comments were more than ‘goofy.’ They were nonsensical. I don’t know if he asks his nieces to refer to him as ‘Uncle Sugar,’ but I certainly hope not. The main thing is that he wants us to have a national discussion about contraception.

“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America.”

I’m not sure that anyone knows quite what the hell that comment is supposed to mean. He later explained that “My point was to point out that Dems have put a laser-like focus on government funded birth control and given it more attention than cancer drugs.”

Does anyone think Huckabee’s point was that Democrats are not highlighting enough how ObamaCare is giving people access to life-saving cancer drugs?

Anyone?

I’ve tried to decipher Huckabee’s meaning and I’ve read other people’s attempts to explain his comments, but I think I’ll have to chalk it up to some kind of cultural misunderstanding. It’s kind of like the tension I feel between having total contempt for how Saudi Arabia treats women and religious freedom and my tolerance for different cultures having different laws and beliefs. Maybe your typical Saudi understands what Huckabee was trying to say, but I certainly don’t. I can hardly believe that I share the same country with the man.

As best as I can tell, he was saying that Republicans have enough respect for women to believe that they can remain chaste until marriage, as they should. Maybe ObamaCare should cover the expense of burkas. Would Huckabee support that?

 

By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 25, 2014

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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