Two 5-4 decisions from SCOTUS today. The first was on forcing non-union employees to pay union dues. The Court decided they can not be forced to. The second was on mandated contraception coverage. The Court ruled narrowly that closely-held corporations can get a religious exemption. But it kept the door open for the government to provide such coverage.
I think the Court ruled correctly in both cases but expect very ugly commentary, especially on Hobby Lobby. There is a huge problem in the Left Wing in understanding the difference between something being a good idea (employer insurance should cover birth control) and something being mandated by law (employer insurance should be forced to cover birth control). So expect lots of commentary about how women’s rights have been set back (all the way to yesterday), how the court was mansplaining, how none of the female justices rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, etc., etc.
Just remember this. At the end of the day, women have no less access to birth control than they did last week. If you really want to make a difference in access to birth control, push the FDA to make it available over the counter. That will do a lot more good than forcing corporations to pay for it.
Update: A very important point from McArdle. The net result of this decision will almost certainly be that Obama will extend the deal he made with religious non-profits — where insurance companies agree to pay for contraception — to closely-held for-profits. And this compromise could have been made years ago.
As I see it, this case should never have made it to the court; the Barack Obama administration should have pre-empted the issue by quietly allowing exemptions for nonprofits and closely held corporations that had clear and deep religious beliefs that existed outside of the desire not to pay for contraception. (Hobby Lobby, for example, is closed on Sundays in observation of the Sabbath, even though this costs them sales; I think we can all agree that the Little Sisters of the Poor have demonstrated a fair amount of commitment to demanding religious principles.)
Instead, the administration chose to pick this fight — and got a definitive ruling that will probably have much broader impacts than quiet exceptions. Nor is this surprising; it was pretty predictable from earlier rulings like Citizens United, in which the court also held that people don’t lose their First Amendment rights simply because they have come together in a group or legally organized that group as a corporation.
Presumably, the administration hates this ruling — but at the same time, it has to love the passion that it has engendered. This is going to be fundraising gold for Democrats for the next two years. In a politics that cares more about symbolism than substance, that too was predictable. And it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this was the prediction that mattered more. Politics may not be rational, but it still has its own remorseless logic.
Look at Twitter. Look at Facebook. Look at the liberal blogs. They are exploding with rage over a decision that will ultimately have almost no impact on women at all. Women will get contraception coverage; just through a different financial means. So the Obama Administration has riled up their base over next to nothing.
This is how they operate, people. Let’s not act surprised.