Thursday, March 27, 2014
From Jeffrey Toobin, Women Justices Rock the Hobby Lobby Argument
There were two lessons from Tuesday’s argument in the Hobby Lobby case in the Supreme Court. First, it’s very important that there are now three women Justices. Second, it’s even more important that it takes five votes to win.
The issue in the case is straightforward. The Affordable Care Act requires employers who provide health insurance to their employees to include coverage for contraception. The owners of Hobby Lobby, a large (thirteen-thousand-employee), privately held chain of stores, regard certain kinds of birth control (like the I.U.D. and morning-after pills) as forms of abortion, which is against their religious principles. Does the employees’ right to choose and obtain birth control trump the employer’s right to religious freedom?
There was little doubt where the Court’s three female Justices stood. After Paul Clement, the lawyer for Hobby Lobby, began his argument, twenty-eight of the first thirty-two questions to him came from Ruth Bader Ginsburg (four questions), Sonia Sotomayor (eleven), and Elena Kagan (thirteen). The queries varied, of course, but they were all variations on a theme. The trio saw the case from the perspective of the women employees. They regarded the employer as the party in the case with the money and the power.