Supreme Court hears challenge to HHS mandate, decision expected mid-summer
Editor's Note: This article originally stated incorrectly that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claimed the Affordable Care Act "passed overwhelmingly," with bipartisan support. Ginsburg was actually addressing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President Bill Clinton. The Justice's statement can be seen on Page 11 of this transcript of the Court arguments last Tuesday on the HHS Mandate. Context to her statement can be seen in a long discussion leading up to her comment.
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The U.S. Supreme Court heard its first much-anticipated challenge to the Obama administration's controversial HHS mandate Tuesday. While lawyers argued inside the Supreme Court about how religious liberty applies for business owners, hundreds of pro-life and pro-abortion activists stood toe-to-toe in the snow outside.
Today was the day of reckoning for the 2012 mandate, which requires coverage of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives. On the one side was the Obama administration. On the other, lawyers representing the owners of corporations Hobby Lobby and Costenoga Wood Specialties.
According to Concerned Women for America (CWA) Communications Director Alison Howard, “it was enlightening to see how many young people turned out for this, and very revealing to see how many young people saw this as a life and liberty issue.”
According to The Daily Caller Senior Editor Matt Lewis, Becket Fund counsel Joshua Hawley was cautiously optimistic that the Fund's client, Hobby Lobby, would get favorable treatment. “Discussion in the courtroom focused on — does the government have another means of delivering to women the contraceptives?” Hawley said “the government has ample means to accommodate,” including through Title X subsidies.
Minutes after ending her lunch with the Green and Hahn families – who own Hobby Lobby and Costenoga, respectively – CWA President Penny Nance told LifeSiteNews that while the number of rally attendees by opponents and supporters of the mandate were about the same size, the makeup of the crowds were very different.
Nance said the “leftists” on the pro-mandate side, which included homosexual activists, had gone “so far as to hire” rally attendees in the past, whereas pro-life and pro-freedom attendees have “to take time off of work,” get babysitters, and make other accommodations.
Nance said the Greens and Hahns are “very hopeful,” and “they definitely feel loved and supported” by rally attendees “and hundreds of thousands who are supporting them in prayer across the country.”
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“This is not about contraception,” says Nance. “The Green family objected to four out of sixteen required drugs – life-ending drugs. This is not about birth control. This is about whether a company can be required to provide for life-ending drugs, violating their religious freedom.”
She also pointed to what she claims is a fallacy in the administration's argument – that women need the mandate. “Women can do what they've always done: Use their own money to purchase products,” says Nance. “What about the freedom of women business owners? One-third of the plaintiffs that have sued against the mandate have been women-owned and/or women-operated. What about the rights of those women?”
While pro-life and Tea Party organizations joined forces, they were not alone. Members of Congress joined the rally, both in person – as was the case with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX – and yesterday in the House of Representatives.
Nearly 20 Republican members of Congress spoke on the House floor last evening in favor of religious freedom. One, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, asked Chief Justice Roberts “to consider his core convictions” as a Catholic, and said “what's at stake here” is “the very state of our Constitution.”
According to an unofficial transcript, the plaintiffs initially took a lot of pressure from the Court's three female justices, especially Justices Kagan and Ginsburg.
During the 90-minute arguments, Chief Justice Roberts asked the government's lawyer why corporations can be involved in lawsuits involving race. The lawyer, DOJ Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, said he believed race was a different issue than the one the Court was examining. Justice Kennedy, seen by many as potentially the critical fifth vote on the Court, pressured Verrilli as to why “a whole class of corporations” have been exempted from the mandate, but some are not to be exempted.
In a public statement, Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green said that her family “believe[s] that no American should lose their religious freedom just because they open a family business.” She said they “are thankful that the Supreme Court has heard our case, and we prayerfully await the justices' decision.”
The Court's decision is expected by mid-summer.
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