Supreme Court Prepares to Fuck Up This Birth Control Thing


Whelp, it was good while it lasted. Analysts following what’s become known as the “Hobby Lobby case” predict that, following oral arguments before the Supreme Court today, it seems likely that the five conservative men on the nation’s highest court are likely to band together and rule that a woman’s boss’s religious beliefs should dictate whether a woman can use her employer provided insurance to purchase birth control. In other words, they’re about to rule that a corporation can have religious beliefs. Which is fucking ridiculous.

While we won’t know for certain how the court has ruled for another couple of months, what we do know is how the arguments went down in court today, who was asking what, who seemed sympathetic toward whom. We also know that four of the Justices— Alito, Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts, and IRL crazy man Scalia lean conservative and would vote to grant religious rights to gynecological stirrups if it meant getting between women and reproductive health care that’s advanced beyond the 19th century. We know that four of the justices — Kagan, Bader Ginsburg (NEVER DIE, RUTH BADER GINSBURG), Sotomayor, and Breyer — lean liberal, and would likely be siding with the government’s assertion that no, corporations do not have religious beliefs and thus should not be able to use those to justify not covering certain medical procedures in their employees’ insurance plans. But then there’s Anthony Kennedy. Anthony Kennedy, who is to the Supreme Court what Ohio and Pennsylvania are to Presidential elections. And Kennedy, according to TPM, didn’t seem sympathetic to the government’s case.

“Under your view, a profit corporation … could be forced in principle to pay for abortions,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, the traditional swing vote, told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
Kennedy wasn’t so unequivocal about his views, signaling that the outcome is unclear, but appeared to be leaning against the government. He warned that the administration’s reasoning could lead to more onerous mandates. He wondered aloud if other exemptions under Obamacare, such as the accommodation that lets religious nonprofits opt out of paying for contraception, suggest that the government has decided the services were “not that important.”

The Chicago Tribune wasn’t as quick to the jump on the IT’S OVER! OVER! train as TPM. The Trib called the court “divided,” but still hinted that 5 of the justices were leaning toward striking it down. It’s not looking good.

Hobby Lobby’s evangelical CEO has claimed that the government’s requirement that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraception places a substantial burden on his religious beliefs. The purveyor of crafting supplies is joined in suing the government by Conestoga Wood, a company with a name that would be hilarious if it wasn’t suing to allow a belief in magical rules made up thousands of years ago to trump women’s access to health care. Justice Elena Kagen during oral arguments today, the New York Times in an op ed this weekend, and other sources have noted that if the court buys the argument of the plaintiffs, the ruling could have far-reaching implications for other religious business owners who wish to use their beliefs to justify denying their employees the right to use their compensation as they see fit.

This is partially on you, scrapbookers. This is partially on you.

Here’s the part where we stop short of rending our sassy feminist tote bags and slow our collective roll before shit gets too real and the day is ruined: the SCOTUS doesn’t always rule the way analysts think they might rule. I recall that it was only two short years ago when a certain Obamacare Supreme Court challenge ruling shocked fucking everyone when it turned out that Chief Justice John Roberts — ROBERTS! — cast the deciding vote in leaving the Affordable Care Act intact. I was working from bed in the first place I lived when I first moved to Brooklyn, and I’d woken up early that day to prepare a post for this very blog about how unfortunate it was that the ACA was no more. I’d written the whole thing and just left details blank and was listening to NPR’s live coverage of the release of the ruling and when it turned out that the SCOTUS had kept the individual mandate I had to write a new, weird post about the ruling as quickly as I possibly could. Remember how even CNN got it wrong? Remember how a bombshell report after the ruling hinted that Chief Justice John Roberts is kind of vain about the court’s public perception, how he changed his mind? It’s not hopeless. And it ain’t over until the reporting interns sprint.

Image via Getty

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