When the Supreme Court ruled this summer that corporations with religious owners can't be required to pay for birth control coverage for their employees, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned us in her dissent that the court had "ventured into a minefield." Time is only proving her right.
That's in part because the court ruled that "closely held" corporations can't be required to pay for contraception, without ever actually defining what "closely held" means. In late August, the Obama administration issued a proposal for how the ruling could be applied, and began asking for public feedback. Surprise! Everybody disagrees.
The ruling has already had some deeply weird ripple effects: as we told you yesterday, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay is using it to argue (probably unsuccesfully) that he shouldn't be forced to be led by a female guard. But it's potential implications are much, much bigger: as the Washington Post points out today, one 2009 study found that the "vast majority" of companies in the United States could be defined as closely held, employing about 52 percent of the country's workforce. A group of companies and organizations who want to protect contraceptive coverage, including NARAL and Planned Parenthood, wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urging them to please adopt narrower standards for how the ruling might be applied. They call the Obama's proposed standards "overly broad," and ask that only certain companies be included in the ruling: ones that aren't publicly traded and whose equity holders all agree on the same shared set of religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal aid group dedicated to "protecting religious liberty" argues that no, the rules should be even broader. And they're still furious about the administration's proposed compromise plan, which they imply is nothing less than an attack on God-fearing Americans, writing, "This administration needs to stop picking and choosing who can and cannot exercise religion, always trying to deny religious exercise to some Americans."
For more reasons that this is only going to get messier, read Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 35-page dissenting opinion against the ruling, the one where she called it "radical" and warned it would wreak "havoc" on healthcare coverage for women. In this, as in all things, RBG called it.
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