July 8, 2020


Reproductive Coercion Wins at the Supreme Court (Melissa Gira Grant/July 8, 2020, New Republic)

The Supreme Court has affirmed the rights of certain employers to deny contraceptive coverage in their health plans in a case involving a private Catholic health service challenging a long-fought-over provision of the Affordable Care Act. This front in that battle concerned the Trump administration's rules granting employers, schools, and other entities who must offer a health plan "moral" or "religious" exemptions from covering contraception, as mandated by the health care law. In a 7-2 ruling in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, the path was cleared for Trump's rules to move forward.

"For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas, for the majority. "But for the past seven years, they--like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today's decision--have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs."

The Affordable Care Act's rules mandating private health plans cover a range of contraceptive care--including 18 methods explicitly identified by the Food and Drug Administration--have not changed. But today's ruling expands the range of employers (and others who offer insurance plans, like schools) who are allowed to exclude some or all of these methods if they have religious or moral objections.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor recognized this denial of access in their dissent. "For six years, the Government took care to protect women employees' access to critical preventive health services while accommodating the diversity of religious opinion on contraception," Justice Ginsburg wrote. A win for Little Sisters and the Trump administration exemptions may be a win for "religious freedom," but it cannot be one without also being a loss for reproductive freedom.

...their English antecedents and Anglospheric history, for this right of "reproductive freedom" (nice reversal of quotes there!) that ought be set off against the oft-mentioned and explicitly protected right of religious freedom.  It's such a slam dunk they even let Justice Thomas write the opinion. The culture wars are a rout.

Posted by at July 8, 2020 5:40 PM