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Editorials, Commentators React to Contraceptive Coverage Ruling

Editorials, Commentators React to Contraceptive Coverage Ruling

July 2, 2014 — Several media outlets recently published editorials and opinion pieces responding to the Supreme Court's decisions to limit the scope of the federal contraceptive coverage rules and overturn Massachusetts' 35-foot "buffer zone" law.

Contraceptive Coverage Requirement

~ Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune: Although Justice Samuel Alito tried to portray his majority opinion as narrow, the ruling "created a precedent ... by failing to explain persuasively ... why the reasoning in this ruling now won't be exploited by every business owner who wants to impose his or her moral notions on employees," according to Tribune columnist Zorn. He notes that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, "'The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.'" Zorn concludes, "I share her fears" (Zorn, Chicago Tribune, 7/2).

~ Jonah Goldberg, Chicago Tribune: In a Tribune opinion piece, Goldberg, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online, argues that asking an employer to "pay for" an employee's private pursuits "not only makes [the employee's] private pursuits [the] boss's business, it makes them the business of taxpayers and a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington." Although there is "room for nuance," he concludes that "when in doubt, the government should err on the side of laissez faire et laissez passer, le monde va de lui meme. Not everything is your boss's business, or anybody else's" (Goldberg, Chicago Tribune, 7/2).

~ Caitlin Dickson, Daily Beast: The Hobby Lobby case "has reignited a[n] uncharacteristic Republican push for over-the-counter birth control pills," Dickson, a Daily Beast reporter, writes, noting that such calls have been met with "more suspicion than celebration" from reproductive-rights advocates. However, OTC birth control pills "could be the only option for women who work at any of the 82 corporations where the CEO's religious beliefs outweigh employees' rights to responsible family planning" or other uses of the pill, including as treatment for medical conditions or to lower the risk of certain cancer, she continues. Dickson quotes Jeanne Conry of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who said, "'We should just call them hormonal regulation tablets and we wouldn't have nearly the amount of hurdles as we do when we call them birth control pills'" (Dickson, Daily Beast, 7/1).

~ Paul Horwitz, New York Times: Horwitz, an author and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, writes that "when social controversies do come before the court," like in the Hobby Lobby case, "its powers are limited." However, such controversies "won't be settled ... easily," because "a country that cannot even agree on the idea of religious accommodation ... is unlikely to agree on what to do next." In addition, "a nation whose marketplace itself is viewed ... as a place to fight" over religious accommodation and "basic anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation" instead of a place "to escape [those fights] is still less likely to find surcease from struggle." Therefore, the U.S. should "[e]xpect many more Hobby Lobbies," he concludes (Horwitz, New York Times, 7/1).

~ Ezekiel Emanuel, Politico Magazine: "After Monday's Hobby Lobby decision," more Americans will have to choose between having the "ability to decide for yourself and your family the type of coverage you want to purchase on a health insurance exchange -- and having your premiums subsidized" -- and "ced[ing] that ability to your employer entirely, having them pick your insurance for you, but empowering them to decide, based on their personal religious beliefs, which services to cover and which to exclude," Emanuel, vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of its Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy writes. He argues, "The Supreme Court's conservative majority ... does seem to have added one more reason to doubt the wisdom of having employers be the main sponsors of health insurance in the United States" (Emanuel, Politico Magazine, 7/1).

~ Cecile Richards, Time: In its "devastating" decision, "the Supreme Court ruled that it's better to be a corporation than a woman in America," Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Richards writes. Richards argues that both the Hobby Lobby ruling and the decision on the Massachusetts law "reflect a staggering lack of awareness of what women have to go through to get health care." She concludes, "The bottom line: Our health care decisions are not our bosses' business -- and neither is our use of birth control, for any reason. That we even need to argue this point is incredible -- but politicians, corporations and the Court need to hear from women" (Richards, Time, 7/1).

~ Dana Milbank, Washington Post: While the Supreme Court's ruling "not only affirmed corporate personhood but expanded the human rights of corporations, who by some measures enjoy more protections than mortals," it "notably did not protect the rights of people employed by Hobby Lobby," Post columnist Milbank writes. He adds that the justices in the majority "also may not have considered how flesh-and-blood humans might perceive the ruling -- the five men of the conservative bloc allowing restrictions on birth control over the objections of the three women on the court" (Milbank, Washington Post, 6/30).

Buffer Zones

~ Emily Jane Goodman, The Nation: The goal of antiabortion-rights protesters "has always been to get up close and personal with the women whose lives they want to control," Goodman, a former justice on the New York Supreme Court, argues, adding that their "endgame was never to regain access to an open street forum." Instead, ending the "buffer zone" in Massachusetts will make way for challenges in other states, she writes, adding, "As Massachusetts goes, so goes the nation" (Goodman, The Nation, 7/1).