It’s been awhile since the Supreme Court heard an abortion case, and while last Tuesday’s argument wasn’t exactly about abortion, it was.
In NIFLA v. Becerra the Court is considering a California law, the Reproductive Fact Act, that compels “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide information to clients including the availability of abortion. The pregnancy centers, whose real mission is pro-life/anti-abortion, say the act violates their First Amendment’s free speech rights.
The Constitution’s contracts clause was before the Court on Monday as the justices heard arguments in Sveen v. Melin about a state that law nullifies life insurance beneficiaries post-divorce. The dispute is between the children of Mark Sveen, who divorced four years before he died in 2011, and Sveen’s ex-wife, Kaye Melin.
If you’re wondering about Wednesday’s arguments, I wasn’t there. A snowstorm was rolling through and I, unlike the justices who are no snowflakes, decided not to chance the drive in from Baltimore.
It’s been a strange Supreme Court term, like a meal that doesn’t satisfy. With only eight members on the bench after Justice Scalia’s death the odds were good that the last blockbuster opinion of the term would fall to a tie.
But, once again, Justice Kennedy was the fulcrum that allowed the Court to do some heavy lifting. In a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Breyer in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the lie was exposed that Texas’ restrictive abortion clinic regulations were enacted to protect women’s health.
That left the dissenters arguing only on procedural grounds that Whole Woman’s Health had lost an earlier round and should never have got another bite of the apple.
Oh, and there was also the unanimous opinion in McDonnell v. United States. It’s perfectly okay now, through gifts and cash, to purchase access to politicians, even if it stinks.
It’s been ten years since the Court last heard arguments on abortion, coincidentally the same amount of time Justice Thomas maintained his silence during arguments until he asked several questions from the bench earlier this week. Dashing some expectations he posed no questions during today’s argument.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is an appeal of a Texas law that places requirements on abortion clinics so excessive that many are forced to close. Much has been written about the case so I’ll just post my sketches and point the reader to Lyle Denniston’s post on SCOTUSblog.
Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate magazine, coined the term “faux-nanimous” for the kind of unanimous decisions the Supreme Court delivered today where concurring opinions read more like dissents. Read her article, you’ll like it. And I’ll just go ahead and post my pictures.
UPDATE: Another great article on the “faux-nanimous” opinions, this time from professor Garret Epps for The Atlantic
Supporters lined up behind the owners of two family owned businesses, Anthony Hahn, second from right, and Dave Green, far right, on the lower level of the Supreme Court building this morning. They were waiting to hear arguments in two cases concerning Obamacare’s required contraceptive coverage by for-profit employers. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities both embrace Christian principles that cause them to object to forms of contraception that they believe are tantamount to abortion.
It’s been a long day of lively arguments, lots of drawings, and even a little bit of snow, so forgive me if I forgo further comments and simply post the day’s sketches. There are links at the bottom to reporting on the arguments.
Lyle Denniston’s argument recap here.
NYT story here.
WaPo story here.
And a must-read from Dahlia Lithwick here.