Is Hobby Lobby a Disaster for Reproductive Rights?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
July 4 2014 10:46 AM

The “You’re a Facebook Lab Rat” Edition

Listen to Slate's show about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, the child immigration crisis, and Facebook’s controversial mood study.


Become a fan of the Political Gabfest on Facebook. We post to the Facebook page throughout the week, so keep the conversation going by joining us there. Or follow us @SlateGabfest!

To listen to the discussion, use the player below:


For this week’s Slate Plus bonus segment, David interviewed Emily about Harris v. Quinn and Supreme Court precedent. Slate Plus members get an ad free version of this podcast with bonus segments. Visit and try it free for two weeks.

On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, David Plotz, John Dickerson, and Emily Bazelon discuss the Hobby Lobby decision and women’s reproductive rights, the reasons why immigration reform died, and Facebook’s controversial mood study.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week's show:

  • In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Hobby Lobby could refuse to cover certain female contraceptives such as intrauterine devices and Plan B, which it considers to be abortion.
  • RFRA, which prevents laws from interfering with the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, was a reaction to a widely disparaged Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith. The law passed in 1993 with almost unanimous bipartisan support.
  • The decision also hinged on Hobby Lobby’s status as a closely held corporation. The IRS considers 90 percent of American businesses to be closely held.
  • IUDs are more effective than the pill and are one of the only options for women who cannot use hormonal contraceptives.
  • While Obamacare greatly expanded access to contraceptives, the law sparked an electoral backlash that allowed many republican-controlled state legislatures to cut funding for family planning and impose restrictions on abortion.
  • Although a single-payer health care system would eliminate the need for employers to provide insurance, a hypothetical republican congress could refuse to fund contraceptives at the federal level.
  • The bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill passed in 2013, but John Boehner refused to call a vote, citing a mistrust of the President.
  • John Dickerson wrote that immigration reform died because conservative lawmakers feared a grassroots backlash in an election year.
  • Despite Boehner’s impending lawsuit against him for executive overreach, Obama is using executive action to make small changes to the immigration system.
  • Due to a sharp increase in organized crime and gang-related violence in Central America, thousands of children are fleeing to the U.S. and Mexico.
  • In 2012, Facebook manipulated its newsfeed algorithm for over 600,000 users to study if prioritizing certain emotionally skewed statuses produced an emotional contagion that would lead users to mirror what’s on their newsfeed.
  • The photo blog Humans of New York posts daily content that almost always goes viral.
  • Several years ago, Google tested 41 different shades of blue to see which shades users clicked on more.

Emily chatters about biking in Amsterdam.

John chatters about a recent Quinnpac University poll on Obama’s presidency, as well as the Wikipedia page for historical rankings of U.S. presidents.

David chatters about the Israeli TV show Srugim.

This week’s credits are in the style of World Cup TV commentary.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest. The email address for the Political Gabfest is (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Max Tani.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.