Friday, March 25, 2016

The Court and contraception, again

I warned about The Little Sisters of the Poor's objection to the Affordable Care Act's contraception-coverage provision a couple of years ago. Dahlia Lithwick's excellent Slate piece went into the deep philosophical issue at the heart of the nuns' objection to the provision: namely, that the nuns believe even signing the exemption paperwork the ACA requires of an objecting group would make them complicit in the provision of contraception. In a different post about Kim Davis' objections to Kentucky's same-sex marriage I explained the deep trouble that such an argument signifies:
Davis objects to standard legislative accommodations of objecting religious believers. She won't allow her deputies to do the physical work of issuing documents because they still require her signature, and even if the signature were imprinted by a machine it would, in her eyes, still reflect her endorsement of a sinful act. This level of belief can't be satisfied by legalistic fig leaves that exempt the believer from physically participating in the act: it considers standing aside and letting the action take place to be tantamount to complicity.


If you sincerely believe that the least little contact makes you complicit in a sin, I don't see how you can be virtuous in the modern world. I also don't see how you can believe in freedom of belief for anyone else if you're inclined to constrain what other people can do if their actions impinge on your "web" of possible complicity.

In a lament of the idiocy that was the Court's Hobby Lobby decision, I wrote:
How does it impermissibly burden Hobby Lobby's founder to pay an insurance premium for a policy that covers, but does not require, contraception? He's already paying his employees straight salaries that — gasp! — they might use to buy contraceptives at the drugstore. How do these situations differ from the founder's perspective?
  • In both cases, it's the employee's choice to purchase the contraception. Nobody is holding a gun to Hobby Lobby's founder's head to buy it.
  • In both cases, the employer is simply paying the employee; the only difference is the form of the compensation.
  • Since when has it been acceptable for your boss to dictate how you spend your pay? You are not an indentured servant and the boss is not a plantation owner.
Why are the boss's qualms more important than my legal rights? Hell, why are the boss's qualms more important than mine? Answer me that, O Justices in the majority.

They can't. This case should never have been accepted for adjudication by the High Court.

The same objections hold in the Little Sisters case. I'm afraid that the same prejudices will hold among the blinkered conservatives on the Court.

The Little Sisters' case finally made it to the Supreme Court and, according to The Atlantic's Garrett Epps, the conservative justices were typically hostile to contraception and sympathetic to the religious group.

Roberts, Kennedy, and Alito seemed utterly oblivious to the other side of the question. If the plan “belongs” to the employer (Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that it does not, by law), then the benefits surely “belong” to the employee. By definition, she has earned her lawful wages, which include government-required employee benefits.

The decision of how to use those benefits—of whether and when to conceive—is a profoundly personal one that involves sensitive issues of health as well as ethical issues that are hers, and not the employers’, to decide. ... Solicitor General Donald Verrilli tried to bring that question to the fore. What the challengers were asking, he said, was that “those rights or those employees who may not share [the] petitioners’ beliefs be extinguished.”

Alito wasn’t interested in employees or their consciences, however. Did Verrilli not understand that this provision offended the important, the traditional, the conservative American religious groups?

Not for the first time, I curse the sanctimonious twit Samuel Alito. But his conservative colleagues on the bench were just as sexist and revolting. As Epps concluded:
The conservatives’ hostility to government, and to government-regulated health care, formed a toxic smog when it combined with what seemed, to use a term I don’t use lightly, like good old-fashioned boys’-club sexism. Women and their concerns, the conservatives seem to think, should not intrude into serious areas like medicine and health.
The blind fealty to the supremacy of religion among the conservative Justices is sickening. It's also harmful in the extreme to pluralism, genuine religious tolerance, and even public health in this country.

If there's a genie out there who can grant me wishes, could you please bless Justices Roberts, Alito, Kennedy and Thomas each with a vagina? Then they might gain a dim understanding of the depth of their abysmal idiocy on women's health.

In the meantime, each of those gentlemen can make use of his existing genitals to fornicate himself.

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