TPM Cafe: Opinion

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the ACA’s provision requiring contraceptives like Plan B to be covered as a basic part of health plans.

The implications of this decision for women’s health are huge. Contraception is health care, as surely as any other kind of medicine is, but this decision would put that decision in the hands of bosses rather than the women whose decision it should be. And the strategy on the right tomake it seem like a debate about abortion distorts the facts even further--though it apparently is working on Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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Before he became the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall had a groundbreaking legal career — one spent fighting for civil rights, racial equality, and fairness in the criminal justice system. When he retired from the Court, his colleagues reflected on how his unique perspective influenced the Justices’ deliberations. According to Justice Byron White,

Thurgood brought to the conference table years of experience in an area that was of vital importance to our work, experience that none of us could claim to match. . . . He characteristically would tell us things that we knew but would rather forget; and he told us much that we did not know due to the limitations of our own experience.

Today, federal judges like Marshall are the exception rather than the rule — far too few of them have worked as civil rights lawyers or represented indigent criminal defendants.

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For years the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) has given small, silver coat hanger pendants as a gift to monthly donors who give $10 or more. They are well liked among our supporters. On more than one occasion people have asked me how they can get one. When I wear mine, if I get any comments, they are positive. It’s often been a conversation starter about DCAF and the work we do.

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As the “invisible primary” for 2016 gets underway, the most visible near-certain Republican candidate is the junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. Aside from a consistent high ranking in early 2016 polls (he’s remained a steady presence near the top of all post-November-2012 surveys of Republicans, even as Marc Rubio and Chris Christie have risen and fallen), he’s received mostly favorable media attention, from his famous filibuster against CIA nominee John Brennan to his periodic “outreach” initiatives aimed at the young and minority voters among whom his party has been struggling.

He has also avoided much of the intra-party antagonism attracted by his rival Ted Cruz, in no small part because of his calm manner and good personal relationships with “Establishment Republicans” (particularly his Kentucky colleague the Senate Minority Leader, to whom he is offering valuable “constitutional conservative” cover in a potentially dangerous primary challenge). And he has a built-in national base and relatively high name ID thanks to his father’s various campaigns both as a Libertarian and as a Republican.

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When it comes to women’s health issues like contraception and abortion, why does the press so often present opinion and fact side by side? Recent pieces in Reuters,the New York Times and SCOTUSblog, to name just a few, made an attempt at “balance” by presenting what they see as “both sides of the issue” on contraception. But do facts have two sides? When reporting on medical issues, weighing a religious belief as equal to scientific and medical evidence is disingenuous and confusing to the reader. And often there is no opportunity to correct misinformation. As a women’s health care provider, this disappoints and frustrates me.

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Rhode Island has recently learned that its renewable energy standards could be ruinously expensive. But they’re in good company: more than a dozen states have “learned” the same thing, from reports from the same economists at the Beacon Hill Institute (BHI).

Housed at Boston’s Suffolk University, BHI turns out study after study for right-wing, anti-government groups. Funding for BHI’s relentless efforts has come from Charles and David Koch (leading tea party funders) and others on the same wavelength. For the Rhode Island study, BHI teamed up with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a member of the Koch’s State Policy Network.

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Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a case that challenges the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Hobby Lobby, the chain of craft stores, claims that providing health insurance that covers birth control would violate the religious beliefs of its owners and, therefore, the company should be exempt from the requirement. (Conestoga Wood, a small Mennonite furniture maker, has also challenged the mandate, and the Court will also hear Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius tomorrow.)

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Princeton Mom is back.

Also known as Susan Patton, Princeton Mom is the woman who proclaimed, via a letter written “To the daughters I never had” and published last year in the Daily Princetonian (and, subsequently, everywhere), that women should view college as valuable insofar as it leads to one’s “MRS” degree. A Princeton grad herself, and mother to two Princetonian sons, Patton’s thoughts have been published in book form — not because she has anything new to say, but because mothers who obsessively fret over their daughters’ shriveling eggs and hate-clickers alike were so mollified/appalled that said letter went viral faster than crabs at a cheap hotel during Spring break. Thus a book deal was born.

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A remarkable thing happened in Arizona recently. Businesses from Marriott to Apple to American Airlines urged Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062, the bill that would have granted businesses religious rights to refuse services to gays and lesbians. Public figures and politicians like Mitt Romney, Arizona’s two Republican senators, and even several state legislators who had themselves voted for the bill urged the same.

Once the NFL began making noises about moving the Super Bowl out of Arizona, it became clear: the attempt to permit for-profit corporations to use religion to discriminate based on sexual orientation or other grounds was too politically toxic to become law.

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This is part of TPM Cafe Book Club for Jake Rosenfeld's What Unions No Longer Do.

One of the many things I like about Jake Rosenfeld new book, What Unions No Longer Do, is all the compelling data points he brings to bear on what used to be called with much portent, “the labor question.” Though I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, reading, writing, and working in the labor movement, Rosenfeld’s research nevertheless told me many things I didn’t know.

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