Obama’s Legal Team Faces Tough Questions About Abortion and the Affordable Care Act During Hobby Lobby Case

Margot Riphagen of New Orleans, La., wears a birth control pills costume as she protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, on March 25, 2014. Charles Dharapak/AP
Margot Riphagen of New Orleans, La., wears a birth control pills costume as she protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, on March 25, 2014. Charles Dharapak/AP

The questioning got ugly, fast, when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli began his arguments in favor of the mandate requiring employers to provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby has challenged the mandate, saying it violates the religious beliefs of its controlling shareholders, while the Obama administration argues a federal law that protects such beliefs doesn’t apply to shareholder corporations. One big problem is that many churches are incorporated, undercutting the idea that corporations can’t hold religious beliefs. Another is exceptions the administration has carved into the law for churches and religious non-profits.

An even bigger problem is the sheer contentiousness of contraception, especially morning-after pills and other methods that some say can cause the abortion of fertilized eggs and fetuses.

At one point Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote the Obama administration needs to win this case, asked Verrilli if “under your reasoning, a profit corporation could be required to pay for abortions.”

“No.  I think, as you said, the law now ­­ the law now is to the contrary,” Verrilli answered.

“But your reasoning would permit that,” Kennedy followed up.

If such a law were enacted it would, Verrilli conceded, “but there is no law like that on the books.”

That promoted Chief Justice John Roberts to jump in, like a law professor closing in for the kill.

“There is no law on the books that does what?” Roberts asked.

“That makes a requirement of the kind that Justice Kennedy hypothesized. The law is the opposite.”

“Well, flesh it out a little more,” Roberts asked. “What – there is no law on the books that does what?”

“That requires for-profit corporation to provide abortions.”

“Isn’t that what we are talking about in terms of their religious beliefs?” Roberts concluded, having made his point that Hobby Lobby’s owners might hold a sincere religious belief that certain contraceptives are abortion agents.

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SOURCE: Daniel Fisher
Forbes

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