All-Star Panel: Reaction to Supreme Court contraception ruling

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 30, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ADELE KEIM, BECKET FUND: It issued a careful ruling. It issued a narrow ruling, and it squarely rebuked the administration's groundless position that Americans lose their religious freedom when they go out and open a family business. We're thrilled with this decision.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are now a group of women of an indeterminate size who no longer have access to free contraceptive coverage simply because of some religious views that are held not by them necessarily but by their bosses. We disagree and the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office disagrees with that conclusion from the Supreme Court.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Let's bring our panel to talk about today's Hobby Lobby decision from the Supreme Court, Syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome to you, panel. George, I want to start with you. You heard Josh Earnest there speaking on behalf of the White House. And he said the constitutional lawyer in the next office -- the Oval Office disagrees, made a point of identifying the president that way.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes, well, the spokesman for the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office got something wrong. He said this means that women will be denied access to contraceptive care. In fact, what the Affordable Care Act says -- Congress didn't say this, by the way.
Congress passes a kind of vague sentiment about we ought to have proper health care, and then the regulatory state kicks in and wrote the mandate, somewhere in the bowels of the executive department, that says all 20 of the approved contraceptive methods of the Food and Drug Administration should be offered. Hobby Lobby objected to only four of the 20, 16 they are fine with. They only objected to the four that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg which they says goes beyond contraception to abortion, albeit at a very early stage. So that's the argument.

In fact, the president, the Supreme Court said only closely held corporations, Jonathan Turley said there were lots of them. But what that means is there are corporations with a kind of personality, a family personality in this case. And just as the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, Americans do not forfeit their speech rights when they band together in corporations. They don't forfeit other rights as well.

BREAM: Justice Ginsberg writing for the dissent, she was very upset. She was sharply disappointed in this opinion and talked, Mara, about how women have fought for gender equality in the workplace, and in her estimation this puts them now at a disadvantage, although Justice Alito in responding, and you know these opinions, there's always a back and forth between the majority and dissent, saying that her characterization of the majority opinion was not accurate and that there is going to be complete access to all of these FDA approved methods. It's just a matter of who is going to pay for it now.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It's highly likely that the administration as a remedy is going to come up with some way to provide contraception for women whose employers are now allowed to deny them that.

However, there are two clashing visions. Justice Ginsberg is talking about contraception and the right of women to have it -- access to it, and the other side is talking religious freedom. So that's the clash. And obviously today, big loss for the president, big win for Hobby Lobby and people who believe religious freedom is abrogated by the ACA. However, over the long term politically not good for Republicans to be seen as the party against contraception. We saw Mitt Romney work very hard not to be seen that way in 2012.

BREAM: And to be clear, they would argue they are not.


BREAM: But perception a lot of times impacts these things, of course.

I want to read a little bit of Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement on this. He was outraged. There was a tweet and he said "The five men on the Supreme Court should stop making decisions for all the women out there."

But he also said this. "If the Supreme Court will not protect women's access to health care then Democrats will. We will continue to fight to preserve women's access to contraceptive coverage and keep bosses out of the examination room."

Now, Charles, when I talked to Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby, he said they don't want to be in the examination room. That's the whole thing. They don't want to get dragged into this decision that's a very private one. But Democrats across the board, many of them today vowing action saying, hey, we don't like what the court did, and we've seen this, the legislative body sometimes responds with a measure they think will overturn it.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, it's a question of who is changing the status quo here. When you have the expansion of the entitlement state so that the government dictates how health care is delivered, who has to get what kind of coverage, who pays for it, and it defines – as George said, the only thing in ACA is that it should cover preventative care and it should be without a copayment. You could define that as meaning mammograms, for example, or test -- other kinds of tests. They defined it arbitrarily as meaning contraception, as if a pregnancy is a disease to be prevented. So this is an arbitrary definition.

But what I think the important, the import of this is, when the state expands, even if it's doing stuff unintentionally, has no intention of impinging on religious practice, it will inevitably, especially if you're going to control a sixth of the economy and the most intimate interaction a citizen has, which is health care.

So what I think the import of this decision is -- it's in no way going to prevent access to contraception as if the court has ruled that gendarmes are going to be outside pharmacies patrolling it to make sure women can't get in and get their contraceptives. This is simply a way of protecting religious practice which is inevitably impinged on whether intended or not, and it probably was unintended in the law as the government expands. And I think that's why it's important.

But its effect on contraception is a trivial one, because obviously nobody is denied access. Obviously it's only four out of 20 forms of contraception. And as the court pointed out, there are other ways in which the government could provide this for free, and it chose not to do that.

BREAM: And also, we have several emergency petitions pending in the court because tomorrow something kicks in for the religious groups, not these for-profit companies. That's been decided now. But the religious groups who say the combination that the administration has given them, where they sign a form and say we're not going to underwrite this contraception, we write it off to a third-party -- a number of them say we don't want to sign a permission form for something we would never agree to. That deadline kicks in for them tomorrow, three emergency petitions now pending at the Supreme Court. That's the next fight. George, where do you think we go?

WILL: This decision today has lots of possible ramifications. This is the Religious Freedom Restoration act that passed the Senate with only three nay votes. It's one of the most unanimous acts in modern history, and I'm sure Harry Reid voted for it. Suppose, this is an example that comes from Eugene Pollack, a professor of First Amendment specialty at the University of UCLA law school. He says suppose the state says we have a compelling interest in maximizing state revenues and we are going to do this by mandating that state lottery tickets are sold at all shops. And suppose the shops are run by some Muslims, some Mormons, and some others who object to gambling on religious grounds. Now what? Well, Harry Reid is hoist by his own legislation here.

BREAM: There was great bipartisan support for it when it was passed back in the '90s, then was signed into law.

All right, panel, stick around. Next up, the high court's other big decision today, the defeat for big public sector unions.

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