This Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case over a Trump administration attempt to expand opportunities for employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage for women as part of their health plans. The arguments were heard via a conference call in light of current social distancing demands enacted amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, and according to C-SPAN producer Nicole Ninh, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called in from her hospital bed following treatment for an infection. Even sitting in a hospital bed, however, was not enough to stop Ginsburg from memorably shaming Trump administration lawyer Noel Francisco for brazenly trying to upend legal precedent.
#SCOTUS is set to hear two oral arguments beginning 10am. The first concerns the birth control mandate exemption rules & second on robocall ban govt-debt exception. Justice Ginsburg will be participating remotely via hospital bed after being treated for gallstones. pic.twitter.com/8LUujbTEYD
— Nicole Ninh (@nicninh) May 6, 2020
‘What the government has done in expanding this exemption is to toss to the wind entirely Congress’ instruction that women need and shall have seamless, no-cost comprehensive coverage… This leaves the women to hunt for other government programs that might cover them, and for those that are not covered by Medicaid or one of the other government programs, they can get contraceptive coverage only from paying out of their own pocket, which is exactly what Congress didn’t want to happen… Every time we have dealt with this topic, we have assumed that there would be some way to provide coverage that didn’t include any cost-sharing by the individuals.’
In other words — the actual gist of the Trump administration’s rush to restrict the provision of reproductive health coverage for women constitutes a denial of their clearly legally mandated access to coverage.
An excuse for the Trump administration’s attempted reproductive health coverage rollback is “religious freedom.” According to some on the right, their religious beliefs supposedly prohibit them from providing basic reproductive health coverage for women, but Ginsburg noted that it’s not just some vague notion of freedom that’s at stake. The supposedly reproductive health coverage-shunning religious beliefs of certain employers have a real cost for those women who are among their employees and need the coverage. The Trump administration has sought to kick that cost under the rug, it seems.
Ginsburg addressed the Trump administration lawyer:
‘You have just tossed entirely to the wind what Congress thought was essential. That is that women be provided these services with no hassle, no cost to them. Instead, you are shifting the employer’s religious beliefs — the cost of that — to the employees who do not share those religious beliefs.’
Check out a recording below:
This case is not the only one in which the Trump administration has sought to roll back health coverage. The Trump administration has, for instance, joined a court case in which a contingent of Republican states have been arguing that the Affordable Care Act should be thrown out entirely. Previously, the Trump administration already cancelled the individual mandate component of that same health care law, which demanded that every American get health coverage or pay a tax.
Health coverage concerns will no doubt weigh heavily on the 2020 presidential election considering the raging Coronavirus pandemic; the total number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the U.S. has skyrocketed past 1.2 million.