Supreme Court

Reproductive Rights in 2013, What to Look Out for in 2014

2013 was a busy year for reproductive rights advocates: between a 20-week ban passing the House of Representatives, the same law being introduced into the Senate, some successful attempts to pass restrictive state and local laws and numerous developments around the contraception mandate and the Affordable Care Act, there has hardly been a moment to rest.

There is no question that 2014 will be another milestone year because of two cases before the United States Supreme Court: McCullen v. Coakley and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga v. Sebelius (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga will be combined into one case when oral argument is heard in March).

As I described in the Supreme Court roundup post when the term opened, the McCullen case comes out of Massachusetts, where state law does not permit protesters within 35 feet of an abortion clinic on sidewalks and public space unless the people protesting are “employees or agents” of the clinic in question. This case could reshape approaches to protests and anti-abortion activism, and we will follow oral argument and the eventual decision very closely – oral argument is set to be heard on January 15th. The Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism joined an amicus brief filed by the Anti-Defamation League in support of the respondents.

The “contraception cases” have attracted the most attention of any of the bills or lawsuits that have caught national interest this year. These cases (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga at the Supreme Court) ask whether the contraception mandate is a violation of religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Further, the case will also determine who can sue under RFRA, that is, whether a corporation, a corporation as a representative of its owners, or the owners of the corporation themselves can exercise religion. Once this initial question of standing is determined, the Court will put the contraception mandate through the RFRA test: whether the contraception mandate is a substantial burden on religious liberty; and if so, whether there is a compelling government interest to enforce that burden; and whether it is done by the least restrictive means. The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga case cover everything from religious freedom and reproductive rights to health care and corporate law.

In one of the many end-of-year lists out there in the cyber-ether, here is a list of the blog posts we wrote in 2013 on these cases. Hopefully taking a look at this saga as it unraveled will help clarify why these cases are so important, and what is at stake.

February 4 – HHS Releases Encouraging Compromise on Contraception Coverage

July 2 – Obama Administration Rule on Contraception Coverage

August 1 – Contraception Availability Starts Today

November 26 – The Supreme Court Will Hear Landmark Case on Contraception

December 26 – Jan. 1 Expiration of Contraception Mandate Safe Harbor


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Sarah Greenberg

About Sarah Greenberg

Sarah Greenberg is the Senior Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2013 from Cornell University, and is originally from New York, NY. Sarah was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant in 2013-2014.

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