The House and the Senate have added more women to their ranks in recent years, but Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said it is the three women on the Supreme Court whose actions might have the largest impact on women’s health.
Richards said she attended the oral arguments in March for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, and that the arguments were “completely different” than other cases she had attended because of the addition of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen.
The cases would determine whether for-profit companies can be exempt from the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide coverage for contraceptives.
“I’m not making any predictions about how that case ends up but from the opening statement of the Hobby Lobby attorney, he didn’t finish his second sentence before Sonia Sotomayor was right on the point of what is the impact on women,” Richards said during a recent interview. “And when she had to catch a breath, Elena Kagen came in right in behind her and then Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Richards added, “The entire conversation the first half hour was dominated by the women on the court and they were actually asking questions about what would be in the impact of the women effected.
“It’s hard to underestimate the impact that women make and I was frankly never prouder to be represented by a woman in my life than those three women.”
The court is expected to rule on the Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. case in late June.
If the ruling is in favor of Hobby Lobby, Richards said, it would be “unprecedented” and “really unfortunate if the Supreme Court took this benefit away from some of these women.”
Richards said a number of state legislatures that have passed measures limiting access to abortions is a legacy of the 2010 elections when tea party candidates were swept into office.
Last month, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed a measure to ban abortions starting at 20 weeks, joining states like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. In 2013, 22 states enacted 70 anti-abortion laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Richards said that Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, will continue to try and turn back the trend in the 2014 elections, and women voters will be the key.
“The abortion issue is a very complex issue, it’s a very deeply personal issue for folks in this country,” she said. “But overwhelmingly voters in this country believe that women and not legislatures or politicians should make decisions about their pregnancies.”