Last year at about this time, Justice Samuel Alito authored one of the most sneaky anti-woman decisions in recent memory. In Vance v. Ball State University, Justice Alito made it much more difficult for women to sue their employers for workplace harassment. At the time, I said it’s the kind of decision Chris Brown would be proud of, but on reflection, that may have been unfair to Chris Brown.
Today, Alito once again puts in the heavy lifting to make the world worse for working women. Apparently, in Alito’s world, it’s not only okay for employers to try to have sex with their female employees, they also get to regulate what medications they take…
Yes, I said “medication.” Birth control is a lot of things. Religious wingnuts — like, you know, the Pope — can try to make it about God and His plan for YOUR womb, but birth control is also A MEDICINE that helps women regulate a process that men don’t have to deal with.
It’s just now a medicine that Alito doesn’t think employers should have to cover under the Affordable Care Act if those employers think that God doesn’t want them to.
Hobby Lobby was decided today, 5-4, along the usual conservative/liberal split. Alito, writing for the majority, qualifies up his opinion in various ways:
* The decision only pertains to closely held companies governed by the ridiculously named “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Arguably, if Congress wanted to make an exception under the RFRA to remove birth control as a “religious” issue, it could.
* The decision applies only to birth control.
* Alito believes there is a less-restrictive means for the government to provide birth control.
* The decision — and this is classic Alito — does not, according to SCOTUSblog, “provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.” See, this is what Alito does. When you tell him something like “this decision will provide a shield for employers looking to cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice,” that man shakes his head and says “not true,” as if shaking his head is part of the law.
There are three separate opinions in this case — a concurrence by Justice Kennedy and two dissents. It’s one of those “everybody gets to play” SCOTUS decisions. The Notorious R.B.G. seems to say everything worth saying about the majority’s dangerous precedent here, while Kennedy wrote something responding to her dissent that can be summarized as “come now, silly woman, don’t be hysterical.” It’s fun times at One First Street.
In terms of force and effect, this might not be a huge deal. The Court is clear that the government can provide contraceptives if it wants to. The Obama Administration will almost surely do that now. So even if your employer doesn’t cover birth control, the government will. Of course, that will lead to conservatives bitching about the “high cost of government,” and the really stupid ones will accuse Obama of passing out “slut pills,” but that is to be expected. The anti-contraception crowd is a nutty bunch.
Really though, I think it’s time to wonder what might be next from Alito. He’s the judicial embodiment of a gangsta rapper who calls women “females” as if they are an entirely different species. I’m surprised his opinion didn’t end with, “Given how I’ve tried to make birth control harder to get, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind the fellas out there that 18 years, 18 years, she got one of your kids, got you for 18 years.”
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stories, Inc. [U.S. Supreme Court]