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 is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and 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.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
The Eye
Oct. 23 2014 12:48 PM Track Your Bag and Charge Your Phone With This Carry-On Smart Suitcase
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.