TIME

New Clinton Docs Disparage Ginsburg, Underscore Security Concerns at Atlanta Olympics

Clinton Global Initiative America Meetings Begin In Chicago
Former President Bill Clinton listens as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to guests at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on June 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Among other revelations in the newly-released papers, the White House warned of the Supreme Court candidate's "halting speech" and "laconic nature" in one memo

The latest trove of previously-unreleased documents from the Clinton White House reveal the administration’s candid and at times unflattering assessment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The memo, drafted by then-White House Associate Counsel Ron Klain to David Gergen, lists Ginsburg’s defense of the American Civil Liberties Union and “her failure to make eye contact, her halting speech, her “laconic” nature” as potential “performance pitfalls” for her in Senate confirmation hearings. It also includes the underlined warning that, “Judge Ginsburg views the White House’s interest and her interests as being at odds with each other.”

“She sees us as having a stake in presenting her as a moderate and in getting along well with the Senate; she sees her interests as ‘being herself,’ preserving her ‘dignity,’ and promoting her ‘independence,’” the memo continued.

The document is part of the latest batch of memos from the Clinton administration that have been released by the Clinton Library over the past several months. Also in this release is a memo from Klain outlining the subjects President Bill Clinton should bring up and which to avoid in a conversation with soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Also of note is the multiple-choice memo to Clinton seeking his preferences for a planned trip to Spain, Poland, Romania and Denmark, and a White House memo outlining contingency planning for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Bonus: With this check mark, President Bill Clinton began the process of nominating Sonia Sotomayor to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Clinton Library

The Ginsburg memo:

The Breyer memo:

The Olympics memo:

The trip planning memo:

TIME Religion

Atheist to Give First Town Board Invocation Following Supreme Court Battle

A Supreme Court decision upholding prayer before town board meetings has emboldened non-believers to give their own messages

As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments last November on whether town board meetings that open with prayer violate the First Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia asked a rhetorical question: What does an invocation sound like from a non-believer?

Dan Courtney has an answer. The former president of the Freethinkers of Upstate New York will deliver the invocation before the town board of Greece, New York Tuesday evening, the same town at the center of the recent Supreme Court case.

Courtney says he contacted the board the same day the court ruled 5-4 that prayer did not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibiting the government from establishing an official religion. And he’ll soon be one of several non-believers around the U.S. who have recently delivered secular messages before public town meetings.

While Courtney says he wasn’t surprised by the ruling, he was disappointed.

“Sectarian prayer is very divisive,” he says. “Almost by definition, you’re excluding a portion of people who don’t believe in that doctrine, and it excludes the 20% of the population that is non-religious.”

But at the same time, the Supreme Court ruling appears to have emboldened several non-believers to deliver their own messages in a public forum, including an invocation at the Osceola County, Fla., board of commissioners meeting by a member of the Central Florida Freethought Community and several invocations by a non-believer at Portage, Michigan city council meetings.

In his message, Courtney says he’ll draw on the Declaration of Independence and invoke the idea that governments derive their authority from the people, not a higher power.

“If you’re an American, this should resonate with you,” he says.

TIME States

Colorado Attorney General Urges Clerks to Stop Issuing Gay-Marriage Licenses

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers talked about the Hayman Fire and the plea agreement deal with Terry Barton. Suthers was in his office on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post
Colorado attorney general John Suthers in his office on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Cyrus McCrimmon—The Denver Post/Getty Images

Attorney general says clerks are violating the law, since the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is still in effect

County clerks in Colorado who have been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples might soon be ordered to stop, if an appeal to the state’s supreme court by its attorney general is carried out.

Calling the current situation “legal chaos,” where clerks are issuing licenses even though Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage has not been struck down, attorney general John Suthers said the state is being forced to violate its own laws, reports the Denver Post.

Suthers asked the supreme court to intervene after judges from some of the state’s lower courts refused to entertain a similar request, and allowed county clerks to continue giving gay couples marriage licenses.

C. Scott Crabtree, a judge in Adams County District Court, ruled last week that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and denied a request to stop Denver clerks from issuing licenses to gay couples. A Boulder County judge also followed suit, and clerks in Denver and Pueblo began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

However, Suthers said the ban still stands, since Crabtree’s ruling has not yet taken effect.

Most clerks in the state are continuing to issue these licenses because they are against the ban, and Suthers said he understands the issue is an emotional one. “But we simply cannot, as a matter of respect for the rule of law, ignore the processes by which laws are changed,” he said.

[The Denver Post]

TIME Campaign Finance

IRS to Rubber-Stamp Tax-Exempt Status for Most Charities After Scandal

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testifies during a hearing before the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testifies during a hearing before the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong—Getty Images

IRS head touts "efficiencies," but some groups fear fraud

Amid ongoing controversy over its scrutiny of nonprofits, the Internal Revenue Service has decided it will no longer screen approximately 80% of the organizations seeking tax-exempt charitable status each year, a change that will ease the creation of small charities while doing away with a review intended to counter fraud and prevent political and other noncharitable groups from misusing the tax code.

As of July 1, any group that pays a $400 fee and declares on a three-page online form that it has annual income of less than $50,000, total assets of less than $250,000 and is in compliance with the tax-code requirements of a charity will automatically be allowed to accept donations that are tax-deductible for the donors. Previously the groups had to fill out a detailed 26-page form, submit multiple supporting documents and provide a narrative description of their intended activities.

In an interview with TIME, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said the change would result in “efficiencies [that] will translate into a faster and better review” of bigger nonprofits, while clearing a 66,000-application backlog that has resulted in yearlong waits for groups seeking to start a charity. He said the new short form comes with 20 pages of instructions that make clear the requirements and limitations of being a charitable organization. Koskinen said that on the new short form, “people certify that they’ve gone through the instructions” under penalty of perjury.

The IRS rejected the idea of the new Form 1023-EZ in 2012, but using an expedited process this year, adopted the new procedure on the recommendation of a small team composed largely of frontline workers from the scandal-plagued division of exempt organizations, according to the IRS.

Some charitable groups worry the IRS has opened the door to abuse of tax-exempt status that will undermine the credibility of legitimate nonprofits, which are allowed to accept deductible donations under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. “The Form 1023-EZ will increase opportunity for fraud,” said Alissa Hecht Gardenswartz, president of the National Association of State Charity Officials, and will make it harder “to protect charitable assets from fraud and abuse and to ensure that charitable assets are used for the purposes represented to the public.”

Others worry that charities, nominally barred from political activity, will come to serve the same purpose as the powerful nonprofit organizations known as 501(c)(4)s, whose donations cannot be deducted from taxes. This could give an added tax benefit to donors who have recently funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into independent political campaign spending. “What we’ll see is the so-called dark political money that flowed into the (c)(4) world is going to begin to flow into the (c)(3) world,” says Marcus Owens, who was the director of the exempt-organizations division at the IRS from 1990 to 2000, and is now in private practice at the law firm of Caplin & Drysdale.

The change will result in approximately 40,000 to 50,000 fewer (c)(3) applications for the exempt-organizations division to review each year, Koskinen says. The division, whose main office is in Cincinnati, has been at the center of the IRS scandal over alleged political scrutiny of right-wing 501(c)(4) groups under then-head Lois Lerner. That scandal centers on shortcuts the office developed to identify (c)(4) groups for further screening, including screens for groups with the names that suggested an association with the Tea Party movement.

The current legal interpretation of tax regulations allows so-called (c)(4)s to engage in political activities as long as they don’t spend more than 50% of their money on politics. In the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, those same groups earned the ability to buy campaign ads in federal elections, and tax laws allowed them to conceal the identity of their donors. Since the ruling, the number of applications to become a (c)(4) has doubled, to around 1,000 per year, Koskinen says. In the 2012 campaign, (c)(4)s spent approximately $300 million dollars on politics, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Much of that money was spent attempting to motivate voters by advertising positions on specific issues that divide candidates. Owens, the former IRS official, says such activity can be cast under the mission of a (c)(3) devoted to educational, religious or other permitted activities, opening the possibility of deductible dark money. “The candidate links to the issue, and then the tax-exempt organization’s job is to find the voters and make sure they know the message and hear it loud and clear up to election day,” says Owens. “That’s what the (c)(4)s were doing, but that kind of activity could be just as easily in a (c)(3), but it would have the added advantage of having tax deductibility attached to it,” Owens says.

Democratic defenders of the IRS and the exempt-organizations office say both have been deprived of resources, as the overall IRS budget was cut by nearly $950 million, or around 7.8%, from 2010 to 2013, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. In an April 2014 report, the GAO found the cuts had been offset through savings and efficiencies, and by reducing, delaying or eliminating services. Koskinen says budget cuts didn’t play a role in the change in charity rules. “Obviously we are resource-constrained everywhere across the agency,” he says, but “we would want to do this anyway.”

While charity groups agree the old process for receiving tax-exempt status was too cumbersome, they and others worry that now organizations with no true charitable purpose will seek to become charities. “It’s easier to get tax-exempt status under 1023-EZ than it is to get a library card,” says Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the Council of Nonprofits. As a result, Delaney says, bad actors “will be able to operate in the name of the charity, and the IRS will never be the wiser because they’re not looking at the underlying documentation.”

Koskinen says such worries are overblown. “There’s a faith that if someone has been forced to do more paperwork they’re going to be less nefarious,” he says. He says that to prevent potential abuse, the IRS will take samples of applications to see what percentage are being filled out incorrectly, and will monitor the number of applications to see if it spikes suspiciously as a result of the new rules.

Owens says the IRS may not be able to differentiate between truly small charities and those that knowingly plan to grow beyond $50,000 in annual income. “I haven’t seen any mechanism where the IRS would be legally able to go after an organization that applied within the EZ process but then fortune shined on them,” Owens says. He also says that because of outdated software, the IRS won’t be able to track active charities back from its master file to their originating documents. An IRS official speaking on background acknowledged the software problem.

Charities complain that the change was made with little consultation from their representative lobbying organizations. The IRS sped its enactment this year by routing the change through the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for public comment under the Paperwork Reduction Act, rather than through the normal public-comment process at the IRS, nonprofit officials contend. “I just wish the IRS had used a more inclusive process from the beginning,” says Delaney of the Council of Nonprofits.

The IRS studied a simplified tax-exempt form in 2012 but rejected the idea. The group that looked at the idea, made up of outside lawyers and experts in tax-exempt organizations, said that filling out the longer form forced groups to better understand the requirements of being a charity. The group said it “may also be easier to embezzle from a small charity,” so they should be subject to more, not less, oversight.

TIME Technology & Media

Aereo Lawyers: We’re A Cable Company Now

And therefore, they argue, entitled to a compulsory license under Section 111 of the Copyright Act

In a letter to a District judge on Wednesday, lawyers for Aereo signaled a shift for the television streaming company whose business was halted in late June following a Supreme Court decision.

Aereo’s lawyers are now implying the company — which transmitted television broadcasts directly to users via the Internet — is a cable system and not a technology service provider as the Second Circuit court found. Because of this, the lawyers say they are entitled to a compulsory license under Section 111 of the Copyright Act and should be allowed to continue operating.

“Under the Second Circuit’s precedents, Aereo was a provider of technology and equipment with respect to the near-live transmissions at issue in the preliminary injunction appeal. After the Supreme Court decision, Aereo is a cable company with respect to those transmissions,” the lawyers write in a letter published by the Hollywood Reporter.

They continue, “If Aereo is a ‘cable system’ as that term is defined in the Copyright Act, it is eligible for a statutory license, and its transmissions may not be enjoined (preliminarily or otherwise).”

Following the Supreme Court decision, which found the company violated copyright law and should be required to follow the same rules as cable and satellite companies, the start-up halted business. Lawyers also say that, given the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling, any potential legal action against their operations should be limited to the “simultaneous or near-simultaneous streaming of over-the-air television programs.”

Broadcasters argue, however, that Aereo’s arguments are invalid.

“Aereo never before pled (much less litigated) Section 111 as an affirmative defense,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote. “Whatever Aereo may say about its rationale for raising it now, it is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court’s decision automatically transformed Aereo into a ‘cable system’ under Section 111 given its prior statements to this Court and the Supreme Court.”

TIME Gay Rights

Utah Will Appeal Gay Marriage Ruling in Supreme Court

Appeals Court Overturns Same Sex Marriage Ban In Utah
Laurie Wood, (L) and her partner Kody Partridge hold hands at a press conference after the 10th Circuit Court in Denver rejected a same-sex marriage ban in Utah on June 25, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Utah has decided to go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against gay marriage

(SALT LAKE CITY) —€” Utah has decided to go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against gay marriage, meaning the nation’s highest court will have at least one same-sex marriage case on its plate when it returns in October.

The office of the Utah attorney general announced Wednesday that it would bypass a full appeals court and take the gay marriage case to the Supreme Court instead.

If the U.S. Supreme court decides to take the case, it will be the first time the top court considers gay marriage since justices last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The high court is under no obligation to the take the case, and it could wait for rulings from one or more of the five other appellate courts with gay marriage cases pending, legal scholars say.

Utah’s appeal is of a June 25 ruling from a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which found states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they choose partners of the same sex. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.

The Utah case is certain to pique the Supreme Court’s interest, but the justices usually look for cases that involve split rulings from federal appeals courts, said Douglas NeJaime, a University of California-Irvine law professor.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about Virginia’s ban in early May, and a ruling is expected soon. Arguments are scheduled for August and September in two different courts for cases out of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nevada and Idaho.

“My best guess it that the court will hang onto this for a while and see what happens,” NeJaime said. “There are so many cases now, it will have a pick.”

William Eskridge, a Yale University law professor, also doesn’t expect a quick decision from the high court. The Supreme Court is under no deadline to make a decision and knows other appellate decisions are coming, he said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office said in a statement the appeal will be filed in the coming weeks, to get “clarity and resolution” on the matter. The decision to go directly to the Supreme Court means a review from the entire 10th Circuit Court is off the table, no matter what the high court decides.

Gov. Gary Herbert has said the state already budgeted for a need to defend the law before the Supreme Court. It is expected to cost another $300,000 to have three outside attorneys handle the case — the same amount it cost to take the case to the federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last summer allowed married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as other married people, but did not specifically address whether gay marriage is a constitutional right.

Since then, lower courts have repeatedly cited the decision when striking down gay marriage bans. The latest such ruling was Wednesday, when a state judge struck down Colorado’s gay marriage ban. That ruling is on hold pending an appeal.

In the Utah case, the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that overturned a 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban. More than 1,000 same-sex couples wed in Utah after the ban was struck down and before the Supreme Court issued a stay.

The same thing happened in Indiana, where several hundred same-sex couples married during a two-day window in June. On Wednesday, Indiana state officials said they won’t recognize those marriages — the same decision Utah made.

The conservative Sutherland Institute of Utah applauded the state for appealing to the highest court, saying in a statement that it gives states the chance to “defend marriage as society’s way to encourage a married mother and father for every child.”

Plaintiff Moudi Sbeity called the decision to take the case to the Supreme Court “wonderful news.” He and his partner, Derek Kitchen, are one of three couples who sued over Utah’s gay marriage ban.

“We are one step closer toward having our families recognized in our home state,” Sbeity said. “It’s definitely a case our Supreme Court needs to hear. The faster we can move on this, the better for all of us.”

TIME Religion

After Hobby Lobby: A Single-Payer Health Care Solution?

Perhaps both sides could agree it may be a way forward

Now that the initial shouting and—at times—vitriol from both sides has subsided after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, it’s time to take a sober look at what the ruling says about the future of health care reform in the United States. The majority’s ruling was an imperfect solution to a complicated case involving the reach of religious liberty to exempt organizations from providing certain medical benefits that they find morally objectionable to their employees. The fact that these medical benefits were almost exclusively offered to women makes this decision all the more difficult to accept for some.

But at its core, the case reveals something else as well. It brings to the forefront something we’ve all known for sometime: that Obamacare—for all the good it’s done in increasing access to quality and affordable healthcare—is a messy law. It asks employees to be at the whim of its employers’ objectives and mission for what health care benefits they receive. It also asks employers to at times reject its deepest convictions in order to provide certain benefits to its employees.

This isn’t sustainable. A person’s access to quality healthcare shouldn’t depend on who their boss is. And an employer shouldn’t be heavily fined if they don’t compromise their religious convictions in providing healthcare for their staff.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a monumental first step in achieving a just and equitable American health care system that seeks first to serve those on the margins of society. But as we look towards the future, it’s necessary to consider major alterations or even alternatives to Obamacare to continue to advance healthcare reform.

For those of us who value both universal access to quality healthcare and the strong American tradition of protecting religious liberty, there might be a solution in a single-payer system.

A single-payer system overturns an unsound principle of Obamacare: relying too heavily on private organizations to deliver the public good of healthcare. When you require private organizations to enforce what the government believes ought to be public policy, you open yourself to a myriad of legal and ethical qualms. How can you expect organizations as diverse as Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the American Atheists to agree on what health care benefits are appropriate for their employees?

Amidst all the fuss this week over the Supreme Court ruling, both sides actually agreed on one thing: they disliked the accommodation provided by the Obama Administration for religious organizations. Religious groups argue the exemption is too narrow and doesn’t protect the autonomy of some organizations to practice their convictions. Women’s groups argue that the current accommodation unfairly denies women working for religious groups access to birth control, which is a basic benefit in any healthcare plan.

A single-payer public health care option eliminates such complications. No matter who your boss is or what business you work for, you get access to the healthcare you need. And employers will not be forced to compromise their religious beliefs while providing the public good of healthcare.

And let’s be clear, if you have something that is both supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Planned Parenthood, you might be onto a plan that proves the angel Gabriel right: nothing is impossible with God.

Fred Rotondaro is the chair of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign.
TIME Internet

Justice Ginsburg’s Hobby Lobby Dissent Gets Its Own Song

"It bears note that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers making minimum wage."

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a 35-page dissent to Monday’s ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, arguing that “the exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.” But if you don’t have the time to read all that analysis, singer Jonathan Mann has distilled the main points into a song that’s just over two minutes long.

Beware, Mann took some creative liberties: Ginsberg didn’t really call her colleagues “slut-shaming geezers.” But most of the lines are drawn directly from her dissent (which can be read in full here). (And if you want to learn more about the reaction to the ruling, you can find TIME’s full coverage here.)

TIME politics

The Only Controversy About Birth Control Is That We’re Still Fighting for It

Supreme Court Issues Rulings, Including Hobby Lobby ACA Contraception Mandate Case
Supportes of employer-paid birth control rally in front of the Supreme Court before the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Decisions about women’s health are being made, yet again, by judges and politicians who will never need to use birth control.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that it’s better to be a corporation than a woman in America. In a devastating ruling, the Court gave CEOs of some closely held profit-making corporations the right to deny their employees coverage for birth control because of the CEO’s personal objections – even if those objections are not supported by science or medicine.

The Court’s ruling has unleashed an outcry from people across the country who are incredulous that decisions about women’s health are being made – yet again – by judges and politicians who will never need to use birth control. This decision — by five male Justices — opens the door for corporations to interfere in the private health decisions of their employees, who happen to be women. Both the Hobby Lobby ruling and the recent decision striking down protections for women entering healthcare centers that provide abortion reflect a staggering lack of awareness of what women have to go through to get health care. It’s no coincidence that all three women on the Court signed the dissent, which spoke to the realities of women’s lives and sounded an alarm. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, the Court “has entered a minefield.”

The decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties sets a dangerous new legal precedent treating some, perhaps all, for-profit corporations as if they were people, fully capable of expressing deeply held religious beliefs. The result? Some corporate owners have been given a free pass from following the law if they claim that doing so violates their religious beliefs – allowing them to enjoy both the legal protections of being a corporation and the privileges of being a person.

It’s unbelievable that in 2014, we’re still fighting for access to birth control – but we are. Ninety-nine percent of women in this country have used birth control at some point in their lives, including 98% of Catholic women. For millions of women in this country, the only thing controversial about birth control is the fact that we’re still fighting to have this basic health care covered by insurance – especially given the overwhelming evidence that birth control, when used correctly, has a host of health and medical benefits. It can help relieve painful menstrual cramps, avert infertility by addressing the symptoms of endometriosis, and – shockingly – prevent unintended pregnancy.

Birth control is only a social issue if you’ve never had to pay for it. Many women pay an average of $600 a year — and sometimes much more — for contraceptives. A 2010 survey found that more than one-third of women voters have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point in their lives – but when they have access to it, they can support themselves financially, complete their education, and plan their families and have children when they are ready. It’s good for women, it’s good for families, and it’s good for this country.

Here’s the good news: Despite the Supreme Court, the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act remains in place. More than 30 million women already have access to this benefit, and in its first full year, women saved an incredible $483 million more on birth control prescriptions than they did the year before. This is the biggest step forward for women in a generation.

The real consequence of this ruling is that it invites “closely held corporations” to pick and choose what methods of birth control are covered by insurance. Far from a narrow ruling, the Court’s decision affects enormous for-profit companies employing thousands of women and more than half of the workforce in this country. This is unacceptable, and we have heard from members of Congress, the White House, and numerous medical groups including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Nurses Association—all of whom are fighting alongside Planned Parenthood to make sure that women have access to affordable birth control. We’re working with women’s health champions in Congress to ensure they protect and expand women’s access to no-copay birth control, and we encourage companies to do the right thing and provide women full birth control coverage. And we’ll take this fight to the ballot box in November, showing women across the country where candidates in their state stand on their access to birth control.

Meanwhile, our #JointheDissent campaign lit up the social media landscape, with nearly 6 million people seeing and sharing our campaign information with their friends on Facebook in the first day alone. Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t understand what’s at stake for women, Americans around the country do.

The bottom line: Our health care decisions are not our bosses’ business – and neither is our use of birth control, for any reason. That we even need to argue this point is incredible – but politicians, corporations and the Court need to hear from women.

Cecile Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

TIME politics

5 Things Women Need to Know About the Hobby Lobby Ruling

Obamacare Contraceptive Rule To Be Decided On By Supreme Court
Activists who support the Affordable Care Act's employer contraceptive mandate demonstrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

What the Supreme Court's ruling on contraception means for women

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the government cannot require certain employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control if they conflict with the employer’s religious beliefs. The ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is not only a blow to the Affordable Care Act but also, critics argue, to women’s rights.

Here’s what women need to know:

1. If you work at certain types of for-profit companies, they no longer have to cover the cost of any contraception that they say violates their religious beliefs

The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) requires most health insurance plans to cover birth control without cost-sharing. Without healthcare coverage, the pill can cost about $25 a month and an IUD (intrauterine device) can cost up to $900 (though it’s inserted once and lasts up to 12 years).

Before the ruling, houses of worship were already exempt from the birth control insurance mandate. Non-profit organizations with religious affiliations, like Catholic colleges and hospitals, have to inform the insurer if they object to contraceptives, and the insurer is then responsible for figuring out a way to guarantee contraceptive coverage for the workers without the company using its premiums to pay for it.

The privately-owned corporation Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft store with self-described Christian values, argued that they too should not have to cover certain emergency contraception because of their religious beliefs. The company objected to paying for emergency contraception including Plan B, Ella—both commonly known as the morning after pill—plus two types of IUDs. Hobby Lobby said they believe these types of birth control amount to abortion. The company did not object to covering other types of contraception, including birth control pills.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, but the ruling applies only to companies considered “closely held.” According to the IRS, a company is “closely held” if five or fewer people own more than half the corporation. Closely held firms make up over 90% of all American businesses, and about 52% of the American workforce works for a closely held corporation, according to studies from Columbia University and New York University. The Affordable Care Act, however, only requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers, so many “closely held” firms are already exempt.

Justice Samuel Alito suggested in his ruling that the Health and Human Services (HHS) department could extend the accommodations that they have in place for religious non-profits to these for-profit companies so the insurer would provide birth control without charging the company. However, both religious groups and women’s rights groups think this would be insufficient. Some religious non-profits have alleged that these accommodations still infringe on their religious beliefs and are suing the federal government. And advocates at the Women’s National Law Center have said companies should be required to provide contraception as a basic healthcare need. The Obama administration may need to come up with a an alternative way to provide coverage, but it’s unclear what those options would be or how difficult they would be for consumers to access.

2. All three female Justices dissented, arguing that this ruling limits women’s rights

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Stephen Breyer (the only male justice who dissented). “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage,” Ginsburg wrote. “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community,” she continued.

Ginsburg notes that an IUD without coverage costs a month’s pay for minimum-wage workers. And critics of the ruling say that because a federal work around hasn’t been developed yet, many of the women who currently work for places like Hobby Lobby have lost easy access to key family planning options and the most most effective type of birth control. Even after the gap is filled, it still may be cumbersome to acquire birth control. While some women are able to choose their place of employment taking health care into consideration, because of geography and economic restrictions, that’s not possible for all women.

(Read the entire opinion and dissent here.)

3. The ruling may depress use of IUDs at some privately held corporations that deem it a form of emergency contraception

Health groups have begun to lobby for an increased use of IUDs. The IUD has a failure rate of less than one pregnancy per 100 women in a year, better than both the pill (9 pregnancies per 100 women per year) and condoms (18 pregnancies per 100 women per year), according to the CDC. Despite all these benefits, just 9% of women in America use it—the lowest of any developed country. (By comparison, 23% of women in France and 41% of women in China use IUDs.) It’s just starting to gain traction in America: Planned Parenthood reports a 75% increase in use since 2008.

Today’s decision, which gives certain companies the option of not covering the IUD among other types of contraception, arguably undermines gains made in IUD usage. The IUD can also be used as emergency contraception if it is inserted five days after intercourse, hence the Hobby Lobby’s objection to it and not birth control pills.

This isn’t the way most women use the IUD: many gynecologists will only schedule an appointment for IUD insertion until after a woman gets her period that month so as to ensure she’s not pregnant. Some will even perform an ultrasound. There are no statistics on how many women use the IUD as an emergency contraceptive method instead of alternate methods like the “morning after” pills, but James Trussell—a Princeton Professor who has done extensive research on the topic—told TIME’s Sarah Begley, “I would say that the number [of women] who get IUDs as emergency contraception is miniscule.”

The fallout from today’s ruling could be that some women who work companies that refuse to cover the IUD may be discouraged from using this effective birth control method by additional costs they may incur or the complications of finding supplemental insurance.

4. Women’s rights groups are angry because they see the ruling as a loss of autonomy for women

Some women’s rights advocates have taken the argument even further than Ginsburg did. Up until this point the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has been interpreted as a protection for individuals’ religious practices—not those of corporations. The Supreme Court just said that these protections also extend to for-profit companies, but didn’t protect a woman’s right to choose her method of birth control. Thus, many critics argue, the Supreme Court decided that corporations are people, but women are not. Women’s rights groups say restricting insurance coverage for some types of contraception, or making coverage more difficult to obtain, undermines access to birth control in general and point to studies that have shown that offering greater access to contraception—rather than restricting it—leads to fewer unintended pregnancies and thus reduces the number of abortions by 75 percent annually.

5. Under the ruling, some corporations could attempt to refuse coverage for other, non-contraceptive medications and procedures citing their religious beliefs

As Ginsburg writes in her dissent, “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations?”

In the majority opinion written by Justice Alito, he specifies that the ruling applies only to the contraceptive mandate, and states that it should not be understood to include to other insurance mandates, like those for blood transfusions or vaccinations. But Ginsburg notes that even if the Alito exclusion holds, there are other issues: “Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude,” said Ginsburg.

 

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