Former anti-abortion leader alleges 2014 Hobby Lobby SCOTUS leak

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FILE – Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 16, 2022. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said his panel is reviewing “serious allegations” in a report Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, that a former anti-abortion leader knew in advance the outcome of a 2014 Supreme Court case involving health care coverage of contraception. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(NewsNation) — A former anti-abortion leader said he was told the outcome of a 2014 Supreme Court case weeks before it was formally announced after one of his organization’s wealthy donors allegedly learned the information while dining at Justice Samuel Alito’s home, according to the New York Times.

In a letter sent to Chief Justice John Roberts, Rev. Rob Schenck — an evangelical minister and once prominent anti-abortion activist — said he learned the court’s opinion in Burwell V. Hobby Lobby after a private dinner conversation between Alito and a donor to his nonprofit.

Shortly before the opinion was officially released, Schenck said he told the CEO of Hobby Lobby what he knew.

The majority opinion, which Alito wrote, determined that some companies with religious objections could avoid the contraceptives requirement outlined in then-President Barack Obama’s health care legislation.

In a statement to the NYT, Alito denied leaking the decision but did not dispute that he had dined with the woman who allegedly shared the information with Schenck. The woman, identified by The Times as Gayle Wright, also denied obtaining or passing along the information.

Schenck’s revelation comes just months after someone leaked a draft opinion by Alito on another controversial case — one that would determine the future of abortion access — out of the nation’s highest court. It’s still unclear who was behind the leak of the draft decision that ultimately overturned Roe V. Wade, although an investigation is ongoing.

Who is talking about this?

The left. Of the outlets reporting this story, 71% lean to the left, 7% were considered right-leaning and 22% were in the center of the spectrum, according to NewsNation’s partner Ground News, which monitors media bias.

  • HuffPost: “Justice Samuel Alito Leaked Hobby Lobby Decision On Contraception In 2014: Report”
  • Jezebel: “Justice Alito Allegedly Leaked Hobby Lobby Birth Control Decision to Donors in 2014″

Is that really what’s happening?

Yes. In a letter obtained by the NYT, Schenck informed Chief Justice John Roberts that he had become aware of the 2014 Burwell V. Hobby Lobby decision after a donor to Schenck’s anti-abortion organization learned the outcome while dining at Justice Alito’s home.

Back in June 2014, when so many awaited the Court’s opinion in Burwell V. Hobby Lobby, I was informed by a donor to the Capitol Hill-based non-profit organization I led that she and her husband would be dining at the home of Justice and Mrs. Alito.

She suggested that in their table conversation, she might be able to learn the status of the case, something she knew I had an interest in knowing. I received a follow-up message from her notifying me she had indeed obtained the information during that visit. We spoke on the phone, and she detailed the revelation.

Rev. Rob Schenck in a June 2022 letter to chief justice roberts

What’s another side of this story?

After spending more than three decades trying to overturn Roe V. Wade, Schenck has reversed course in recent years. In a 2019 NYT op-ed, he voiced support for abortion rights and said overturning the landmark decision would not be “pro-life.”

“Passing extreme anti-abortion laws and overturning Roe will leave poor women desperate and the children they bear bereft of what they need to flourish,” Schenck wrote. “This should not be anyone’s idea of victory.”

Schenck said he shared the latest allegations with the chief justice in case the information could be helpful, given the investigation of the leak that happened earlier this year.

“Considering there may be a severe penalty to be paid by whoever is responsible for the initial
leak of the recent draft opinion, I thought this previous incident might bear some consideration
by you and others involved in the process,” Schenck wrote in his June 2022 letter.

In addition to multiple interviews with people who learned about the 2014 breach from Schenck, The New York Times said it found “a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested (Schenck) knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.”

The bottom line

Americans’ trust in the judicial branch of the federal government took a hit after the leaked draft opinion earlier this year. This latest allegations could exacerabate that mistrust.

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