Professor David S. Cohen was among a trio of legal scholars interviewed July 2 on WHYY’s Radio Times program about two recent Supreme Court rulings related to reproductive rights.
The court’s 5-4 ruling that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are exempt from providing contraceptives for employees because of the owners’ religious beliefs could adversely affect a broad number of workers, Cohen said.
The two companies objected to four forms of birth control, Cohen said, noting that the ruling would allow employers who object to any contraceptives on religious grounds to withhold coverage for their workers.
“There’s nothing limiting this decision to only those four types (of birth control,)” Cohen said, noting that organic food manufacturer Eden Foods has fought a legal battle to avoid providing any forms of contraception to its employees.
In her dissent, Cohen added, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg aptly noted that intrauterine devices – one of the contraceptives included in the ruling – are costly and yet medically necessary for some women.
Cohen joined Sarah Barringer Gordon and Tobias Barrington Wolff, both faculty members at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, on the panel, which was moderated by Marty Moss-Coane.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that a Massachusetts law establishing buffer zones around abortion clinics violated protesters’ First Amendment rights raises “a serious problem,” Cohen said.
“There have been eight abortion providers who have murdered since 1993, two of whom were murdered in Boston,” Cohen said, explaining that lawmakers in Massachusetts drafted the buffer zone law in response to the shooting deaths of two clinic receptionists.
Citing statistics compiled by the National Abortion Federation, Cohen noted that there have been hundreds of incidents of real or threatened violence targeted at clinics, employees and volunteers between 2010 and 2013.
“These are very real, concrete, current problems that these buffer zones were trying to help and the Supreme Court struck it down,” added Cohen, the co-author of a forthcoming Oxford University Press book that explores violence against abortion providers.