There seems to be some confusion over at the Supreme Court about what can and can’t induce abortion. In their ruling in the Hobby Lobby case last week, justices ignored the overwhelming scientific evidence that the contraceptive methods in contention do not in fact cause abortion, as defined by the medical community.
“If the owners comply with the [Health and Human Services] mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Court’s majority opinion. This, the justices determined, constituted a “substantial burden” on Hobby Lobby’s religious rights.
At issue are four types of contraceptives: two of them, Ella and Plan B, are classified as “morning-after pills,” and two others, Mirena and ParaGard, are classified as intrauterine devices.
“There are medications that prevent pregnancy and there are medications that cause abortions,” said Dr. Lin-Fan Wang, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, an organization that aims to bring medical expertise to discussions of public policy. The methods before the Court, she explained, “clearly worked to prevent pregnancy,” not terminate it.
Even using religious conservatives’ definition of when life begins — the moment an egg is fertilized — three of the four contraceptives can be proven not to lead to abortion, and scientists are almost as certain the fourth doesn’t, either. (The New Republic has a useful graphic and explainer on the matter.)
Wang’s group was one of more than a dozen in the medical community to sign on to an amicus brief detailing the scientific distinctions between contraceptives and so-called abortifacients. But all that mattered to the Court from a legal standpoint was simply that Hobby Lobby believes these contraceptive methods could somehow lead to abortions. As Talking Points Memo explained at some length Thursday, a statute of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects religious beliefs regardless of evidence. Call it an article of faith.
The Court also chose to ignore the health imperatives surrounding birth-control pills. As I highlighted last week, the pill is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including endometriosis, which will affect an estimated 11 percent of women in their lifetimes, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which affects 5 percent to 10 percent of the female population. For all women, the pill is the best protection there is against ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers women face, short of removing your ovaries or being born a man.
But you’d never know that from reading the Court’s oral arguments, or majority opinion. Corporations and their religious beliefs about the way abortion works trumped all that.
In the days since I wrote about the health imperatives of birth-control pills, there’s been some debate about how useful those themes are to the feminist cause. But that these scientific findings aren’t being included in the Court’s arguments should be troubling.
Here, for the Court’s consideration, are several things women have been known to do that don’t in fact cause abortion, no matter your beliefs: wear Spanx Underwear; take long, sweaty bike rides; watch Rachel Maddow; read Nora Ephron; and — wait for it — take birth-control pills.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”