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This Week in the Supreme Court Could Be Make it or Break it Time for Women’s Rights

This Week in the Supreme Court Could Be Make it or Break it Time for Women’s Rights

This is the last full week that the Supreme Court will be in session, which means that there is a major likelihood that the two biggest cases when it comes to reproductive rights could both be decided this week.

Both Hobby Lobby and the Massachusetts buffer zone cases were argued much earlier this year, and as the summer session drags to a close those on both sides of the abortion issue are getting anxious. A continuing delay over the buffer zone, a Massachusetts law that requires those who are not associated with a medical clinic, either as client, volunteer or worker to remain at least 35 feet from the building’s entrance, has some wondering if what was expected to be a fairly straightforward majority decision to strike the law as unconstitutional has evolved into something more complicated.

Early questioning in the case had legal experts believing that the court was inclined to call the zone too restrictive of freedom of speech rights, with the biggest outstanding issue being how many would sign onto the majority.

That was in January, however, and the longer we go without a ruling, the more it opens up the possibility that the merits of the case are still being weighed. Buffer zones, which have been put in place not just in Massachusetts but in other states and municipalities across the country, have been viewed as a simple way of decreasing tension outside abortion clinics, especially as crowds get rowdier and spend less time on allegedly “counseling” and more time preaching, yelling, following patients and shoving graphic posters in their paths. As clinics continue to be picked off via abortion regulation bills that require medically unnecessary and difficult to obtain hospital admitting privileges, the protesters in front of clinics may grow with less targets to concentrate on, making the approach to a reproductive health site even more cumbersome than before.

Is the court considering these other, mitigating factors when it comes to Massachusetts? Will it let the zone stand, seeing it as a proper balance of free speech versus the right to access an abortion without feeling threatened, which is a violation of the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act? Are they crafting a response that they feel would better balance the two constitutional rights, such as a more limited zone? Or noting how this ruling would trickle down to other pending cases, like the 39 foot zone being challenged in Portland or the other zone challenges that are imminent?

Even more up for speculation is what the court will finally decide when it comes to Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the administration for requiring it to offer its employees health insurance that covers all forms of hormonal birth control and contraception, as well as sterilization, which the Hobby Lobby business owners claims violates their religious freedom.

The question that the Supreme Court will answer is inevitably whether one person’s “religious freedom” allows them not only to exempt themselves from law, but to impose their own religious beliefs on others, which is essentially what declaring oneself a religious for profit business does. Does just having religious beliefs mean that the Greens, who own the craft store chain, get to decide for their non-religious employees what health care they are allowed, especially with insurance that the employees themselves are paying for as part of their benefits package? If the Supreme Court rules that Hobby Lobby is allowed to disregard the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, then that opens the flood gates for any organization, business or charity to also reject government law as an act of religious freedom.

For the Greens, that would be exactly what they are hoping for. As Politico reports in a profile on the family and their multitude of endeavors to move the United States to being a theocratic nation by undermining the line between secular and religious policy, creating museums, broadcasts and even school textbooks presenting the Bible as fact and advocate for a return to biblical principles.

“Our goal [is to] reintroduce this book to the nation,” Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, said last spring before the National Bible Association according to Politico. “This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. We need to know it. And if we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

In one case, freedom of speech trumps the right of a person to obtain a legal medical procedure. In another, freedom of religion trumps a person’s right to access legal, preventative health care. In both cases, those who can get pregnant are the target.

This week at the Supreme Court could truly be a make or break moment for the right to decide when and if a person is ready to have a child.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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81 comments

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6:09PM PDT on Jun 28, 2014

They should protest outside capital hill, not outside the women's clinic. They are harassing people and interfering with them obtaining medical treatment.

6:37PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least 13 – thirteen — cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012 that were unanimous decisions? Fortunately the US Constitution was written expecting that tyrants like Obama and Holder could occupy the executive branch and bid for unchecked federal power.

9:59AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Thanks for sharing

1:11PM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

There isn't a balance b/t men and women on the Supreme Court or in congress and we have to change that unless we go backwards which the right wing agendas will take us.

2:53AM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

Hobby Lobby is a closely held LLC, a limited liability corporation. The Greens chose not to simply own their company, since they would then be personally liable if, say, some of the Chinese imports they sell turned out to poison small children who put them in their mouths. The parents of the injured or dead kiddies can only go after the assets of Hobby Lobby, but not the large, personal fortunes of the family Green. That wall of separation for liability SHOULD cut both ways, even for Fat Tony (Scalia).

Health insurance is part of an employee's compensation, over which an employer has no say. Ruling that HL is entitled to contravene federal law in employee compensation would be akin to ruling that a Jewish employer could demand that their Christian employees keep Kosher at home, or even more simply, that they be allowed to ignore federal wage and hour law. I'll be really surprised if John Roberts sees this any differently.

1:00PM PDT on Jun 25, 2014

Interesting how the Religious Right calls other religions “barbaric”. If they had a mirror, they could see they are just as bad but defend their actions in the name of Jesus rather than another prophet.
Ignore Freddie R. He comments simply to rile us and get us to waste time. I have better things to do with my time than fight a battle of wits with an unarmed man.
Perhaps our best defense is to play the RR’s game one step better. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. We can, therefore, form our own religion (pick a name) and if they come after us, we’ll claim they’re persecuting our religious beliefs.

12:53PM PDT on Jun 25, 2014

Interesting how the Religious Right calls other religions “barbaric”. If they had a mirror, they could see they are just as bad but defend their actions in the name of Jesus rather than another prophet.
Ignore Freddie R. He comments simply to rile us and get us to waste time. I have better things to do with my time than fight a battle of wits with an unarmed man.
Perhaps our best defense is to play the RR’s game one step better. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. We can, therefore, form our own religion (pick a name) and if they come after us, we’ll claim they’re persecuting our religious beliefs.

12:17PM PDT on Jun 25, 2014

Deborah W in Lincoln, ity, OR who joined in August 14, 2013 is NOT Deborah W in Rolling Meadows, IL who joined in March3, 2012 ...

THOUGHT THERE WERE NO DUPLICATES -- HOW DID THIS HAPPEN. MAKE IT CHANGE, I'M SURE NEITHER WANTS RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE OTHER'S COMMENTS.

10:18PM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

Unfortunately too many women voted as they are instructed/told/threatened to do. Until this practiced is stopped the fervently religious will have a louder say than they would if those women actually thought for themselves. Too many people buy books that tell them how to interpret the bible, which I find ridiculous. Anyone who can read should be able to decide how they feel about the subject but obviously it isn't true. And those men who feel it's their right to control women continue to breed and raise more mentally limited females. That is frightening. The Supreme Court members are appointed, so it comes down to which presidents have nominated the most free thinking or close-minded justices. That is also very frightening. They should be reminded that church and state are separate.

9:37PM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

noted

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