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Supreme Court Still Has These Major Rulings Coming on Abortion and Religious Rights

06-22-2020
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The US Supreme Court gave Donald Trump a stinging defeat last week with its decision to preserve DACA – an Obama administration program he tried to kill.

But Monday they gave the president a victory. They refused to take up a case challenging the 25 percent tariffs he slapped on steel imports. Steel importers wanted the high court to rule that unconstitutional. They’ve been arguing that power should rest in the hands of Congress, not with the president.

But the court let the president’s power to impose such tariffs stand.

Could the Court Announce 14 Rulings in 3 Days?

That’s about all the Supreme Court announced Monday – a big surprise with 14 rulings still left to come out, and this term expected to last less than two weeks.

The big hold up may well be that the coronavirus pandemic threw the high court off by about two months. It put off hearing at least 10 cases that would have come before the justices in March or April. They eventually heard those 10 cases in May.   

But usually, it takes many weeks for the nine justices to argue behind the scenes and try to win allies for a majority ruling, then actually vote and decide the ruling, then write the very complicated opinions on both the majority and minority sides.

So it could be the justices may feel they have to go beyond their usual deadline of having everything wrapped up and done before the 4th of July holiday.

Many Plans Could Be Upset

Usually, in the last month or so before the end of the term, the court announces rulings on Mondays and Thursdays.  So if they were to depart by the 4th of July, that would mean dividing the rulings for the 14 cases left into just three days of announcements – roughly five a day – and that’s just exceedingly odd for this court.

The downside of continuing the term beyond the 4th of July is that the various justices sometimes have summer classes they help teach or big speeches to give. These may have already been scheduled months ago. Some of the justices might have long-booked vacation plans.

We likely won’t know what they decide, though, until the last second because the justices seem to love keeping any news of their ways or decisions secret as long as they possibly can.

Abortion Case May Seem Minor but Could Become Major

Of those 14 cases still left to have their rulings rolled out, one of the most anticipated is the Louisiana abortion case. It involves a state law insisting abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital.   

The law’s proponents say that’s important so that if something goes wrong during an abortion, the doctor could get his or her patient into an emergency room quickly and be on hand to work with the patient and those emergency room doctors.

Opponents say only one abortion doctor in Louisiana would meet the criteria to have such admitting privileges, so it would basically run all the other abortion clinics out of business and leave one doctor to handle the roughly 10,000 abortions women get in Louisiana most years.

Those who’d like to see the justices visit Roe v. Wade say this case could give them a chance since it involves women’s safety and one of the key points in deciding Roe was whether it was a safe procedure.  But four justices seem for sure to vote against the Louisiana law, and Chief Justice Roberts has seemed unwilling to side with the other four more conservative justices in any ruling that would really rock the judicial boat – like overturning Roe.

Religious Liberty, Conscience Rights on the Line

Two of the remaining cases could affect religious liberty.   

In one of them, a pair of Catholic schools got rid of teachers who then sued the schools. They contend the schools practiced employment discrimination.   

But the schools are arguing their hiring and firing of teachers should be covered by something known as the ministerial exception. It’s a doctrine that says the government has no business being involved in the hiring and firing of people responsible for the passing on of a faith – something that ministers do, for sure, and teachers also do in a religious school. If the schools lose, it would let the government have a big say on whether or not a religion can decide who’ll teach the faith.

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Another case involves the Little Sisters of the Poor, who thought their refusal to provide abortion-causing contraceptives in the healthcare coverage of their employees had been settled once and for all by the high court – and in their favor.

But then states came against the federal government, saying it had no right to exempt the Little Sisters, or any other similar organization, from this Obamacare edict.

If the Little Sisters lose, they could face fines of up to 70 to 75 million dollars a year, which would surely sink their ministry to the poor and elderly. It would also be a serious infringement on the conscience rights of religious believers, with the government forcing such people to go against a deeply-held core belief or face severely-punishing penalties.

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