Justice Ginsburg: Contraceptive Ruling Creates 'Minefield'

Image: Justice Ginsburg: Contraceptive Ruling Creates 'Minefield' Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Monday, 30 Jun 2014 12:43 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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In a withering dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Supreme Court's ruling that employers cannot be forced to cover birth control for women under the Obamacare mandate could create "havoc."

The 5-4 decision on Monday, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, says the healthcare law infringes on religious freedom and can be waived by certain companies. It is the first time the high court has ruled that for-profit businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

But in her dissent, which was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Ginsburg said the ruling from five male justices was a "decision of startling breadth" that would mean that corporations could "opt out of any law … they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs," the National Journal reported.

The Obamacare challenge was brought by Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores employing 15,000 people, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family and employing 950 people in making wood cabinets.

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Ginsburg wrote that the majority ruling "demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation's religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners' religious faith — in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ."

Ginsburg, a liberal member of the Supreme Court, argued that religious groups serve the interests of their members while for-profit companies serve a different purpose, and therefore should not possess religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield by its immoderate reading of RFRA," she wrote in her dissent. "Persuaded that Congress enacted the RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose and mindful of the havoc the court's judgment can introduce, I dissent."

Justices Elana Kagan and Stephen Breyer wrote their own separate dissent, saying that although they concurred with Ginsburg's comments that the challenge to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate failed on its merits, they did not support her dissent about claims under the RFRA.

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