In what is already a controversial session amidst the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on many cases in the upcoming months that will have wide reaching effects in American life and families. Here are three decisions you should know about.
Health Standards: Protecting or Burdening Women?
Pro-lifers across the country will want to pay close attention to this case arising out of Texas. In light of the haunting Kermit Gosnell story in 2013, the state legislature enacted safety measures for abortion clinics. The law would hold abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as outpatient surgical centers and would require the abortion clinics to have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles should there be health complications for the mother. If currently enforced, approximately three quarters of Texas abortion clinics would close.
Abortion advocates say this law violates the "undue burden" standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a doctrine which says any law that places a substantial obstacle to abortion is unconstitutional. In contrast, Texas argues that these are common sense health regulations, and women are not burdened because the would-be remaining abortion facilities are within reasonable driving distances throughout the state.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas law saying that it is not the role of the judiciary to consider the extent of a state's health laws have on restricting abortion access. The Supreme Court will determine whether the Fifth Circuit properly used the "undue burden" standard in making its decision.
Of Nuns & Birth Control
What wins? Freedom of conscience or government interests? In Zubik v. Burwell, religious employers, such as Christian universities and Little Sisters of the Poor, are fighting Obamacare's HHS mandate which requires them to cover the costs of their employees who seek to obtain "all FDA-approved contraceptives" including abortion inducing drugs
This may sound similar to last year's Hobby Lobby case where the Court ruled the government cannot force employers with longstanding religious beliefs to pay for coverage that violates their conscience. To comply with Hobby Lobby, the Obama administration created an exception for religious employers which exclude the objectionable content in their insurance plans.
However, the federal government is still forcing the employer's insurance companies and other third party administrators to cover the costs of their employees who seek to obtain abortion pills. This means employers are still actively involved in providing drugs in their healthcare plan which violate their conscience.
The Court will weigh whether Obamacare's HHS mandate and it's "accommodation" violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Court's decision will depend on whether the government can prove whether this is the least restrictive way of advancing a compelling public interest.
A Separation between State and Playgrounds
The state of Missouri prevented pre-school and daycare centers from using a government program which provides recycled tires for safer playground surfaces. The reason? The pre-school is run by a church. Missouri claims that allowing the program to serve a church-run daycare will violate the concept of separation between church and state.
The Court will determine whether excluding churches from an otherwise neutral government program constitutes a violation of the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses.
All three of these cases will affect families. One way or the other, the Supreme Court of the United States will advance or burden family restoration.