Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Supreme Court and Legislative Corrections: The Hobby Lobby Pushback Begins

by Nomad

When it comes to the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling, the mainstream media are predictably attempting to portray the Congressional reaction as a partisan one, with liberal Democrats on one side and conservative Republicans on the other. That's true but the issue that arise decision go far beyond party lines. 
And it could spell serious trouble for Republicans in the mid-terms.

In response to the Supreme court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, senior United States Democratic Senator from Washington, Patty Murray, has introduced legislation to combat what some have called judicial activism by the court.
According to ABC News:
The bill, the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, mandates that employers cannot disrupt coverage for contraception or other health services that are guaranteed under federal law. It comes a week after the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that closely held for-profit companies can deny contraceptive coverage under their company health plans if it goes against a sincerely held religious belief.
Rather inaccurately, the news report also states:
Although the court issued a narrow ruling focused on contraception in the Hobby Lobby case, some Democratic leaders fear the decision sets a precedent that could allow employers to deny other health care coverage based on religious beliefs.
In fact this was not as much a partisan issue as the writer would have you believe. It is also a gender issue, affecting both conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican women. 

That gender divide was also evident when the ruling was handed down. The female members of the Supreme Court launched a scathing rebuke of the decision. Justice Ginsburg said:
"The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage"
She also wrote that there is a serious danger when the personal religious beliefs of company owners are allowed to intrude into the lives of their employees.
"Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."
If this is in any a partisan issue then that is simply because the Republican party has shown itself to be more interested in protecting the rights of corporations and the rights of women and the rights of employees in general. Republicans are simply afraid to break with the party and support any kind of remedial legislation.

Clearly, labeling this as a fight between parties provides the Republicans with an advantage in the mid-term elections. Without the women's vote, Republicans could be in serious trouble. Add to that, the heaps of Republican legislation aimed at limiting a woman's access to health and reproductive services in state after state and you have potentially disastrous scenario come November.

If it is not merely a Dems vs. Republicans issue, then it is also more just a women's issue. How so?

Some 62% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method. Eighty-three percent of black women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy currently use a contraceptive method, compared with 91% of their Hispanic and white peers, and 90% of Asian women. 
So the Hobby Lobby ruling could be seen as a minority concern as well. 

This strongly suggests that this really is a wedge issue that could endanger all Republicans hopes of snatching away the Senate from Democratic control. After all, relying solely on older white male voters is just not going to get the Republicans very far at the ballot box.

Surprisingly perhaps this issue also goes beyond the predictable religious lines. Contraceptive use is common among women of all religious denominations. Eighty-nine percent of at-risk Catholics and 90% of at-risk Protestants currently use a contraceptive method. Among sexually experienced religious women, 99% of Catholics and Protestants have ever used some form of contraception. That's according to the Guttmacher Institute and for any remaining clear-thinking Republican strategists, those are scary numbers.

The ABC report also notes:
Colorado’s Udall said women should never have to ask their bosses for a “permission slip” to access birth control or other critical health services. Udall, who is among the Democrats facing a tough re-election bid, has publicly criticized his Republican opponent for his voting record on birth control and abortion.
The bill is receiving strong Democratic support, with 35 senators signing onto the legislation.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said today’s bill “protects the right of all Americans, men and women alike, to make decisions about their medical care in consultation with their doctor, not their boss.”
By attempting to paint this as a Dems-Republican fight only, the news media has once again -knowingly or unknowingly- allowed the conservatives to frame the issue.   (This happens so often nowadays, that it's becoming harder to perceive.)

But the issue of employer-worker health care rights goes beyond the concerns of women and minorities as well. 
As Ginsburg warned, allowing employers to dictate what they will and will not pay based on their own religious beliefs can be a slippery road. Ginsburg noted:
"Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today's decision."
In short, it could cause an unholy nightmare. Unless some kinds of limiting legislation is drafted soon, the courts could be inundated with unnecessary and costly legal battles as a result of this unprecedented Supreme Court ruling. 

Altogether five male members of the Supreme Court, in their wisdom, have created a legal mess and has left the cleaning up for somebody else. Naturally it's a woman.