A protester outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that its requirement that most employers cover birth control for their employees will stand as well. Anti-abortion groups reacted with anger Thursday, but pledged to continue the fight, with some calling for the removal of Supreme Court justices.
Keith Mason, president of anti-abortion group Personhood USA, told BuzzFeed Shift the ruling was “the largest expansion of government tyranny that I’ve ever seen.” He added, “it perhaps begs the question of whether electing a president with an ‘R’ next to his name is a good strategy, because Roberts has sold out the right.” By upholding the law, he said the Court had “forced every pro-life American to pay for abortions and abortion-causing drugs.”
Asked whether he considered birth control measures “abortion-causing drugs,” he said that “some don’t, some do.” He added that anti-abortion advocates needed to start talking about “recusing judges” (he likely meant to refer to impeachment, not recusal) and that “we’ll be watching those who are elected already to see what they actually do in light of this tyranny.” Anti-abortion advocates have been concerned that the ACA would open the door for federal funding to pay for abortions, despite the administration’s assurances that it won’t.
The conservative group Concerned Women for America had a similar take. Spokeswoman Alice Stewart told BuzzFeed Shift that her group “supports the protection of all innocent human life from conception until natural death; since the individual mandate remains in place, this continues to restrict the religious freedoms of millions of America.”
The US Council of Catholic Bishops has long opposed the requirement that employers cover birth control — they also opposed Obama’s later accommodation allowing religious employers to opt out, but stipulating that insurance companies themselves must then provide the coverage. In a statement today, the USCCB expressed their displeasure with the ruling, arguing that the ACA’s lack of “conscience protection” for religious employers would allow the government to force such employers “to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.”
For one group, this isn’t the end. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has several pending lawsuits attacking the Affordable Care Act from a different direction: they’re concerned not with Congress’s power to mandate that people buy coverage, as the Supreme Court was this time around, but with the birth-control coverage requirements. On a conference call today, Becket Fund’s general counsel Kyle Duncan called Obama’s allowing religious employers to opt out a mere “accounting gimmick,” and senior counsel Mark Rienzi said the Fund’s lawsuitswould “forge ahead” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. The decision, he said, “clears the decks” for other lawsuits to go forward.
Some at the Becket Fund even cast the ruling as a good thing. Senior Counsel Hannah Smith said the language of the Roberts opinion made clear that the ACA “is still subject to legal challenge.” And Duncan said that the Supreme Court’s decision today not to strike the law down laid the groundwork for a later decision that would be specifically about religious liberty concerns — “and that will be a good thing for religious liberty.”
Abortion rights groups, meanwhile, are applauding the Court’s decision. In a statement, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said that the ACA expands access not just to birth control but also to cancer screenings and visits to gynecologists. She called it “the greatest advance in women’s health in a generation.”
Update: Chuck Donovan, spokesman for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, told BuzzFeed Shift his group hadn’t expected today’s ruling to affect birth control coverage requirements in the ACA, unless it overturned the whole law. He was more sanguine about the legal challenges being brought by the Becket Fund, and added that he hoped that upcoming elections would bring in more legislators who were supportive of religious and conscience exemptions to birth control coverage.
He also explained that his group was concerned the ACA would allow Americans to use federal subsidies to purchase insurance on the open market that would include abortion coverage; SBA List does not consider the requirement that consumers pay for this portion of coverage themselves to be a sufficient remedy. They would prefer that the insurance plans involved exclude abortion coverage entirely, and that those who want such coverage purchase a separate rider.