Conspicuously absent from yesterday’s post-Hobby Lobby hullabaloo was the acknowledgment on the left that the decision was the product of a court. Distilling into a single line what was a popular and widely disseminated critique, the New York Times’s Nick Kristof tweeted a picture of Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, sardonically labeling the quintet as “The experts on women’s health on the Supreme Court who ruled today against contraception coverage.” A few hours later, Senator Harry Reid’s office pushed out an assessment that was cut from the same unlovely cloth. “It’s time that five men on the Supreme Court stop deciding what happens to women,” Reid tweeted. Among the hysterical, that sentiment was ubiquitous.
One cannot help but wonder whether Kristof and Reid are aware of what the Supreme Court actually does — which, as anybody who has even a fleeting grasp of American civics knows, is not to set American policy, on health or anything else, but to interpret and uphold the law. In this particular case, the justices were called to judge whether a mandate that was pushed out by the Obama administration in 2012 was in conflict with another law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that was added to the books in 1992. This being so, the degree to which those who decided the case are “experts on women’s health” is wholly immaterial. The justices are jurists not doctors — they are nine appointed attorneys whose role in the American settlement is to provide legal answers to legal questions. Man or woman; straight or gay; handsome or ugly; Jew, Catholic, or protestant — the law must remain the law, regardless of in whose name its intricacies are decided. The alternative would be disastrous. Does Harry Reid aspire to see Roe v. Wade, which was decided by nine men, overturned?