Clip: O’Connor v. Alito and How the Middle Fell Out of the Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court’s term ended last week with an extremely controversial decision on women’s healthcare. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the majority ruled that closely held for-profit corporations are “persons” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and shouldn’t have to provide free contraception to female employees as required by the Affordable Care Act.

In Bill’s conversation this week with Linda Greenhouse, a New York Times columnist and Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate, he asked what they thought about the ruling.

Greenhouse tells Moyers, “Let’s be impolite and point out that all five of them are Roman Catholic and in service of an agenda by a couple of presidents who were elected on a Republican Party platform that called for picking judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Lithwick adds that the substitution of Justice Samuel Alito for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who she describes as holding a moderate, middle position on the court, has been the most “consequential” change to the Roberts court:

“In every issue that we looked at this year — abortion, church/state, campaign finance, every one of these blockbuster issues — what held sway was O’Connor’s [balancing ] test. When O’Connor left the court and Sam Alito came onto the court, in every one of those issues that test is gone. And the new test that Sam Alito has been a proponent of has been dramatically to the right of that center place.

[W]e often make the mistake of thinking that John Roberts was really the decisive change at the court. The decisive change was that O’Connor, love her or hate her, was truly a centrist pragmatist. And when she was replaced by Samuel Alito, that center fell out.”

This clip is taken from the show, Is the Supreme Court Out of Order? Watch the complete interview »

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