The Widdershins

Nuns on the pill…

Posted on: March 25, 2016

Good morning Widdershins.  Hope your Friday is off to a great start on the way to a fantastic weekend.Sisters in front of the Supreme Court

Wednesday occasioned the oral argument before the Supreme Court of Zubik v. Burwell – a rather antiseptic styling for an umbrella case hiding at least eight appeals in the ongoing “scary lady parts war”.  With Brussels and the Trumpster fire being what they are, very little attention was given to what’s commonly known as the Little Sisters of the Poor case.  I’m going to fix that in our little corner of the interwebz.

It is a somewhat complicated case.  First, here is what you need for an understanding of the issues.

  1. This is a case about contraception and abortifacients if you are talking to opponents of Obamacare. These people are the “Petitioners.”  The other side, “Respondents,” say it is a case about an Obamacare mandate providing “the most frequently taken drug for women ages 15-60 costing $30 or more a month for pills, and as much as $1,000 for buying and having an IUD inserted”.
  2. This is a religious liberty and Religious Freedom Restoration Act case. RFRA says the government must have a compelling reason for laws that substantially burden religious beliefs, and even then government must prove that the law is the least burdensome way of achieving its goal.
  3. Churches and their directly affiliated organizations are not affected by this case. They are specifically exempted and there is a separate work-around for them.  This case affects nonprofits like religious schools, universities, and hospitals among others.
  4. Those nonprofits (the Petitioners) were given a workaround to accommodate their objections, but they say this accommodation still burdens their free exercise of religion.
  5. This case could be tied 4-4 since Scalia has gone on permanent sabbatical. If it is tied, the rulings in the various Courts of Appeals stand.  In all those cases, save for one, the Petitioners lost – meaning the government work-around for approximately 1.6 million women continues.  The Court could hold the case until the Senate decides to do its constitutional duty by convening confirmation hearings for a new Justice.


With that baseline, here’s how it works and what is being challenged.  If you are an affiliated religious organization, like a hospital or school, the organization must fill-out a two page form or write a letter saying it doesn’t want contraceptive coverage for its female employees.  Then the insurance company, from funds segregated from the funds of the underlying organization, will provide contraceptive coverage to the insured females.  The insurance company must even communicate separately, in a different envelope, to the women and may not include correspondence along with normal correspondence.

This is a bridge too far for the opponents.  The Petitioners say giving the notice, filling out the form or writing a letter, is putting these female employees on the road to contraceptive perdition.  They also say the insurance companies would have to use the organization’s “infrastructure” meaning mailing list and thereby, it would make them complicit in providing the dreaded contraceptives.

For the Respondents, that is highly toxic bull excrement.  The Respondents include many religious organizations who think the Petitioners have taken their activism beyond the point of absurdity.  They also believe the Petitioners are sowing the seeds of political destruction for religious liberty.  How so?I'll have nun of it

First, the Petitioners want the Court to adopt a finding that if a religious organization says something is a substantial burden on their exercise of religion, the courts must take their word for it.  No questions.  No evidence. End of discussion.  Period.  You can just imagine the number of extreme claims this would create.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this would completely end the contraceptive mandate because it would take about two nanoseconds for some enterprising activist to say, “Because of my religion, I can’t obey any law passed by any government allowing abortion.”

The Petitioners are asking for automatic and absolute deference as to what constitutes a substantial burden on their religious beliefs.  Forget the courts.  Forget the Congress.  Forget state legislatures.  Forget town councils.  Religious claimants would be imbued with superpowers and not be subject to challenge.  No one would be the boss of them.

The other argument advanced by the Petitioners is even more universal in its reach.  They argue that since churches are exempt, all affiliated groups should be exempt – meaning all work-arounds would be halted.  The ability to fulfill the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare would end.

Women for Religious FreedomThe Petitioners counter with, “Just have the government supply contraceptives to all women.”  To which the Respondents reply, “There is no legislation.  There is no funding.  There is no mechanism.  It would be an unfunded mandate that would deny millions of women access to reproductive therapies.”  And here’s a hint, the votes to abolish Obamacare now number almost 60 in the House of Representatives.

True to form, never underestimate the extent to which conservatives will overestimate their impact.  There are thousands of specific religious exemptions in U.S. law.  If legislators can’t enact religious exemptions without the exemptions becoming plenary “free spaces” as is suggested here by the Petitioners, religious exemptions will be curtailed.  That is not a Prolix prognostication; it is what many mainstream religious groups fear.

So there you have it.  Those are the arguments.  Those are the positions.  If anyone asks, about now would be a good time to have a ninth Justice on the Supreme Court.


Fredster has a weekend post slated for tomorrow, so until then take the discussion in any direction you might like.



43 Responses to "Nuns on the pill…"

I understand the religious objections the Little Sisters have. However I don’t see how their argument holds water. Following it out, what if there is a Catholic employee at the insurance company who cites a religious objection to even processing the claims for contraception coverage? Will that employee be allowed to not process the claims or to have to turn them over to another employee to process? An accommodation has already been provided in that no “unclean” funds are used, different envelopes are required for mailouts, etc., etc.

Maybe it’s not a bad thing that Scalia is not around for this case. We know how he would rule on it.

@1, this case the natural progeny of Hobby Lobby. These accommodations mirror exactly what Kennedy said in that case. Now, as usual, the unintended consequences of a case as improvidently decided as Hobby Lobby has come to bite the conservodroid justices where the sun doesn’t shine on their robes.

This whole mess is just another example of Scalia’s “political justice” that masqueraded as originalism.

Thank you for explaining this. It is so ridiculous for these people to imagine they are responsible for the medical decisions that other people make in privacy with their doctor. I have never understood how a company is providing birth control to an employee, when the employee is getting their Rx from a pharmacy, which is written by a doctor, NOT the employer. To me, this is infringing upon doctor/patient confidentiality. Its none of the employers business what medical treatments or Rx’s their employee chooses to use, and what their doctor advises. No employer should have the right to oversee their employees medical care.

@1, the goal of the “religious liberty” political lobby is to create a framework where there is no possible intrusion by the courts or lawmakers for their goal of sanctioned discrimination. They want a legal mandate to be able to treat nonconforming individuals as second class citizens without fear of legal retribution.

Fredster, good point about a catholic employee at an insurance company. My personal position on that would be, don’t take a job that would interfere with your (creepy) religious beliefs.

I don’t understand how the employer comes into play in these situations at all. At the jobs I’ve had where I had insurance, when hired, someone at the company gave me an insurance form to be covered, I filled it out, they sent it to the insurance company, and that was the end of the employer involvement. If I had an issue, I would contact the insurance company myself. Where is the burden on the employer? How do they even know what drugs the employee is taking?

@3, Annie, I agree with everything you said, but the sphere of control these people covet is even more insidious. They want to control the behavior of all women, or at least those women who work outside the home, by eliminating the subsidy of contraception found in the ACA. The thinking is this: If we make women pay for their contraceptives, there will be a segment of the population who can’t afford it, and therefore, they will modify their behavior to better mirror the world view of the religious liberty activists.

That is just evil and wrong.

@2, yes, exactly. I remember Kennedy saying that. Scalia was terrible. Inflicting his weird religious beliefs on everyone in the country. He should have been impeached long ago. I gagged when I read all the comments about his “brilliance” when he died.

@8, Prolix, well said!

@7, the employers become involved because they don’t want contraceptive coverage under their policies. The employers do not want to buy coverage (enterprise wide) that covers contraceptives. The ACA says, “They must provide contraceptive coverage.”

They brought suit against the government to exempt them from that provision. That is what these suits are all about. Seven of eight have ruled in favor of the government — that means the ACA coverage and the work-arounds were not seen as infringing upon the employer’s religious liberty.

Do they also object to vasectomies?

@12, I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine they would. They object to condoms and masturbation.

Prolix said: They want a legal mandate to be able to treat nonconforming individuals as second class citizens without fear of legal retribution.

In a secular society there should be no way they get to do this. If this only harmed these religious “purists”, it would be one thing. However their beliefs and actions are infringing on others who, by law, are entitled to these benefits. It appears to me that reasonable accommodation has been made for these circumstances.

they will modify their behavior to better mirror the world view of the religious liberty activists.


@11, that is so ridiculous. They should be buying a blanket policy. It is absolutely none of their business what is decided between a doctor and his patient (their employee). How on earth could they imagine they will be held liable by their god for what prescription their employee takes. You are absolutely right. This is about control over women.

Another side issue to this is the fact that many women take birth control pills for other medical reasons, like to control their insane menstrual periods or acne, or other things. My younger sister, and adopted sister both started on them at a young age for these reasons.

@16, I meant that what these religions are doing is ridiculous, not Prolix’s comment!

@14 and 16, because these cases are complicated, I didn’t have room to explore certain aspects. Here’s something I can’t get my head around.

Okay, say you are a non-profit and you decide you don’t want your female employees to have contraceptive coverage. One person fills out and signs the two-page form. Is that person, the form filler-outer, is that person then damned to hell because they took one for the team and filled out the form? Can’t you gain redemption after filling out the form through good works and prayer?

The question is this: Because the form filler-outer is seen as committing a sin, does that mean under the logic of these activists, all women who have insurance must lose their coverage because of the momentary lapse for one form filler-outer to fill out the form and then get “resaved” by admitting the sin and asking forgiveness.

When you run this out to that absurdity, which is logically consistent with their claims, this is nothing more than a 7th Century belief system of men controlling women as fertile chattel.

annie@16: When I was in college I had a friend there who was prescribed b/c/ pills because of a skin issue. The reason I know this along with 4 of her other friends is because one day in the hallway of the music bldg, she dropped her purse or it tumbled over and anyway out rolled her little round b.c. pill thing. Poor thing got 4 shades of red with embarrassment saying “no its not for that – it’s a skin problem!!”.

As a side note, I believe she got the script written or the pills given to her at the school infirmary. They did those things even back then!

@18: Lets take it further: Let’s reduce it to the point where the form is already done and all it takes is a mouse click. So eternal damnation for a mouse click?

then get “resaved” by admitting the sin and asking forgiveness.

Nah, the religious extremists would want self flagellation.

So they believe filling out a form requesting a waiver makes them complicit in a woman’s access to birth control. I’m amazed this has made it to the SC and the decision seems to be split. Contrary to their belief they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs, they are in fact, imposing their beliefs on others. That is illegal in this country and I’m not sure why anyone on the SC doesn’t see it that way.

Many thanks to fredster and quixote for the wordpress lesson and links in the last thread.:)

@22: Hope that helps out. Quixote was able to get the info to display where I couldn’t figure out how to do it. 🙂

@21, exactly!

And another point: since these are for non-profit schools and hospitals or “closely held” corporations, I’m assuming there are non-fundamentalist employees (the ones who want the birth control). So, have the non-fundies do any form-filling-out and mouse-clicking, and then the fundies won’t have anything to do with it.

@21, GAgal, yes, the fact situation of filling out the form gave rise to the case, but the legal issue arises out of RFRA that codifies the substantial burden test. For instance, is it a substantial burden for a Texan woman to drive 11 hours to get to a Planned Parenthood Clinic or is filling out this form a substantial burden?

That is really what is at stake here. Whether evidence of substantial burden won’t be needed once a religious activist says, “I’m burdened.”

Here’s an interesting article:

@24, if it was only that simple. The organizations don’t want the contraceptives delivered under their insurance policy. It would be like human resources in a regular corporation saying, “I don’t want dental or vision coverage offered.”

It really isn’t about anything other than stopping Obamacare from offering contraceptive coverage. It is just a back door assault on the ACA. The religious burden is just the legal cudgel with which to beat Obamacare.

Did y’all see this? Ted Cruz actually said, “”Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”

This is a man who wants to be President!

Well, I see I failed at my smiley emoticon. Maybe I needed a space. 🙂

Anyway, here’s a laugh

@26, well said Prolix.

@27, I heard something about a rat when I was making dinner–but what the hell does that even mean?!?!

That sounds like he’s saying, he would normally copulate with a rat, but not Trump the rat.

This is why Kasich keeps hanging on. He is hoping the other two idiots will self implode.

I’m sure this was scripted, but it makes the point

This is why pediatricians care so much about the birth control case. Contraceptive embargoes based on faith are essentially the same legal test as vaccine embargoes.

@28, that is hilarious! I hope Samantha Bee’s show is a hit.

@29, Cruz was trying to get around saying, “ratf**king”.

@30, I’m wondering just what it would take for them to implode at this point. At this point it appears like it is a WWE scenario.

@31, I saw that last night and I have to say, Hillary is pretty talented as an actor because she didn’t seem to be scripted. She played her part with great skill.

@28, GAgal, that was hilarious! Thanks!

@34, he took a tortured route to get there!

Prepare yourselves, here are other theories of Ted Cruz mating rituals:

-Ted Cruz reproduces asexually by budding.
-Ted Cruz possesses a bulbous, red throat sac that he can inflate with 20 minutes of effort to impress females in the vicinity. If they are sufficiently impressed he will cover their eyes with his wings and begin the mating ritual.
-Ted Cruz has shown powerpoints about the budget to at least five women, then shaken his throat-wattles and emitted a low buzz.
-Like many humanoid monotremes, Ted Cruz will protect an egg by storing it in a flesh pouch just above his flippers and emitting a soothing low-pitched hum for the entire gestation period until it hatches.
-Ted Cruz is periodically stricken by Ponn Farr and must return to Vulcan to take a mate or die.
-Ted Cruz ate one of his own spores in the course of a debate.
-Zookeepers have shown Ted Cruz footage of pandas mating in the wild.
-If Ted Cruz’s attempts at courtship are met with success, he rears up to reveal his quill-less underbelly and emits a high-pitched shriek.
-Ted Cruz has crafted NUMEROUS delicate, silken trails to lead female spiders to his “love garden.”
-Ted Cruz reproduces by cloning but must engage in pseudocopulation with a female lizard in order to trigger this process.
-Ted Cruz prefers immaculate conception.

Hilarious, but ewwww! Nobody ever wants to believe the National Enquirer – until it turns out to be true. I don’t think it’s true simply because I don’t think there are 5 willing women. However, since one of the women was Carly’s campaign manager when a Cruz SuperPac gave a Carly SuperPac $500,000, it’s makes you wonder. Hilarious another woman is Katrina Pierson who has been stumping for Trump daily on CNN. (The one who wears the bullet necklace.)

Still, it’s too gross to even think about. A great comment from your link: “Unless his lovers were blind, I don’t believe the NE stories. Ted Cruz is a two bagger-one for his face and one for his partner in case his falls off.”

@41 Thinking outside the box!! Oh, yeah… He’s a “fair weather” Christian too it seems.

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