Many people were momentarily set into a panic last evening when the first reports emerged that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been admitted to the hospital with an infection.
Their concerns were slightly eased when more details of her illness were released, and it turned out that the 87-year-old justice was suffering from a minor gallstone infection and not stricken with the COVID-19 virus.
Any further worries about Ginsburg’s vitality were erased today when she was an active and quite vocal participant from her hospital bed in a telephone hearing of a Supreme Court case streamed live under new protocols adopted by the court during the coronavirus pandemic.
Judge Ginsburg retained her legendary feistiness as she slammed the Trump administration over their attempts to expand a provision that would allow businesses to opt-out of an ObamaCare regulation mandating that women be provided contraceptives at no additional cost beyond their health care premiums.
Speaking to the Trump administration’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Ginsburg criticized the rule in question for expressly defying the intent of Congress as stated in the Affordable Care Act.
“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,” Ginsburg said over the phone from her hospital bed. “They can get contraception coverage by paying out of their own pocket which is exactly what Congress did not want to happen.”
Ginsburg noted a growing disparity in recent rulings involving interpretations of the First Amendment protections for religious liberty, saying that a “major trend in religious freedom is to give everything to one side and nothing to the other side.”
Referring back to an earlier case — Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. — that confirmed the ability of privately held companies to claim religious exemptions to the ObamaCare birth-control regulations, Ginsburg argued that the Trump administration’s position was the type of overreach that essentially was throwing the baby out with the bathwater
“Nothing in the interim rules affects the ability of employees and students to obtain without costs the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives,” the hospitalized justice said. “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 cost of the employer’s religious beliefs to the employees who do not share those religious beliefs,” she astutely pointed out. “The women end up getting nothing. They are required to do just what Congress didn’t want.”
Solicitor General Francisco presented his counter-argument, saying:
“There’s nothing in the [Affordable Care Act] as this court recognized in Hobby Lobby that requires contraceptive coverage,” the Trump administration attorney said. “Rather it delegated to the agencies whether or not to cover it in the first place.”
Francisco tried to take the position that unless private businesses were afforded the opportunity to receive exceptions to the contraceptive mandate, then churches and other religious institutions would also be prohibited from getting such exemptions.
Justice Ginsburg did not respond well to that claim.
“The church has enjoyed traditionally an exception from the very first case… the church itself is different from these organizations that employ a lot of people who do not share the employer’s faith,” she replied.
Today’s exchange on the telephone hearing proves not only that Justice Ginsburg is healthy enough to retain the mental acuity that Donald Trump would be lucky to possess an infinitesimal portion of, but how much America needs her to continue to stay healthy enough to serve on the court as long as Trump is still in office and Republicans control the Senate.
Let’s all hope for a speedy recovery for Justice Ginsburg and a long, long life.
Original reporting by David Edwards at RawStory.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.