Moments ago the US Supreme Court - the same Supreme Court which two years ago upheld Obamacare but as a tax, something the administration has since sternly denied - dealt Obamacare its biggest legal blow to date, and alternatively handing Obamacare opponents their largest court victory yet, when in a 5-4 vote SCOTUS ruled that business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama's healthcare law that requires closely held private companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control.
As Reuters notes, the justices ruled for the first time that for-profit companies can make claims under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). One of the two cases was brought by arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd, which is owned and operated by David and Barbara Green and their children, who are evangelical Christians. The other case was brought by Norman and Elizabeth Hahn, Mennonites who own Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp in Pennsylvania. The justices said that such companies can seek an exemption from the so-called birth control mandate. The decision, which applies only to companies owned by a small number of individuals, means employees of those companies will have to obtain certain forms of birth control from other sources.
As expected, the Supreme Court, which is nothing but a gaggle of political activists, voted along ideological lines. As Reuters reports, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion on behalf of the liberal wing of the court.
"In a decision of startling breadth, the court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law ... they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs," she wrote.
Americans, clearly having nothing better to worry about, promptly made their way to the SCOTUS building:
Hundreds of demonstrators on both side of one of the most contentious cases of the Supreme Court term converged on the court building, wearing costumes, chanting and carrying signs. Some demonstrators chanted, "Keep your boardroom out of my bedroom" and "Separate church and state, women must decide their fate." Signs carried by demonstrators offered contrasting views: "Obamacare - religious liberty First Amendment outlawed," "I am the pro-life generation," and "Birth control not my boss's business." One man dressed up as a copy of the Bible, brandishing a sign saying, "Use me not for your bigotry."
But while the impact on US healthcare from this ruling will be modest, the real consequence will be in Washington, where as Politico writes, "So much for the Obamacare comeback."
Just when the health care law seemed to be in a better place, with a big finish to the enrollment season and the early embarrassments fading into the background, the Supreme Court handed Obamacare’s opponents their biggest legal victory yet.
The contraception coverage mandate isn’t central to the law, the way the individual mandate is. By letting some closely held employers — like family-owned businesses — opt out of the coverage if they have religious objections, the justices haven’t blown a hole in the law that unravels its ability to cover millions of Americans. They didn’t even overturn the contraception coverage rule itself. They just carved out an exemption for some employers from one benefit, one that wasn’t even spelled out when the law was passed.
But politically, that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Obama administration overreached on one of the most sensitive cultural controversies in modern politics. And in doing so, the justices have given the Affordable Care Act one more setback that it didn’t need heading into the mid-term elections.
“This will remind people why they don’t like the ACA to begin with,” said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway. “People do not believe that a president, no matter what party they’re from, should be overbearing or intrusive into their religious practices.”
Republican ad maker Brad Todd put it bluntly: “Anytime Obamacare is in the news, it’s a good thing for Republicans.”
The ruling also allows Republicans to say that Obama and his law have violated one of the most respected constitutional protections: freedom of religion.
“They’ve overreached, and they’ve overreached in an area that’s very sacred,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
That's great. However, it presupposes that Americans still care about such trivial items as freedom (of any kind). And, of course, the Constitution. Both are up for debate.