Opinion: Hobby Lobby ruling sets dangerous precedent
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Claiming that the Affordable Care Act forces Christian organizations to fund abortion-inducing drugs, Hobby Lobby sued the United States government. In a 5-4 decision on June 30, the United States Supreme Court defined the corporation as a “person” and determined that its religious freedom supersedes the rights of women it employs.
At the heart of the matter are methods of birth control incorrectly defined as abortion-inducing, which Hobby Lobby argues it should not be required to provide for employees. The corporation would like to exclude intrauterine devices (IUDs) from its health care policies. IUDs prevent eggs from implanting in the uterus and can be the most effective method of birth control available.
Hobby Lobby encourages condom usage for birth control despite the fact that a couple relying on condoms is 90 times more likely than a couple using an IUD to have an unintended pregnancy. Used alone, condoms result in four million unintended pregnancies per year (Guttmacher Institute).
The Supreme Court agreed that corporations can use religion to pick and choose the types of health care they want to offer employees if employees may still access their desired services through another plan. It’s unclear how this will work, but it seems likely that women will have to discuss the most intimate details of their lives with employers as they figure out how to get coverage for the health care or birth control most suited for their needs.
With around half of all women reporting sexual harassment in the workplace and two-thirds of those incidents involving a supervisor or senior employee, discussing birth control options at work clearly makes women even more vulnerable and less likely to access methods which may be more effective or better for their health.
While Hobby Lobby does approve of oral contraceptives, many religions do not and could easily use the Hobby Lobby ruling to deny women coverage for such methods. Never mind that less than half of oral contraceptives are used solely for birth control. Most oral contraceptives are used to treat ovarian cysts, endometriosis, menstrual issues, and even acne. Under the new Supreme Court ruling, an employer could justify firing a woman for her medical history.
In her dissenting opinion to the ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes, “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations … can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” She added that “disadvantages that religion based opt-outs impose on others, hold no sway.”
Ginsburg argues that this decision allows corporations to disregard any law they choose on religious grounds. Regarding health care, they could refuse to fund immunizations, blood transfusions, or coverage for a same-sex partner because “it’s against my religion.”
Religious freedom has been unsuccessfully used in lawsuits arguing against minimum wage and equal treatment of women and people of color. The Hobby Lobby ruling could legitimize all those arguments.
Despite all the anti-abortion rhetoric, Hobby Lobby clearly has no interest in reducing abortion numbers or promoting positive Christian values. The corporation thrives by exploiting the Chinese labor force where child labor is rampant, 200 employees die every day in workplace accidents, and minimum wage is less than $10 a day. Overpopulation and China’s one-child policy have resulted in massive female infanticide, forced abortions, and a total of 35,000 abortions per day. (Jonathan Merritt, The Week)
A recent study in St. Louis, Missouri found that when provided with full access to birth control, unintended pregnancies declined. The study concluded that similar access to contraception nationwide could prevent half of all abortions (Guttmacher Institute).
If Hobby Lobby and religious fundamentalists who oppose women’s reproductive freedom really cared about abortion, they would stop purchasing Chinese products, and they would insure that every woman has access to the best birth control, prenatal care, and general medical services.
Women were the obvious losers when the Supreme Court ruled against equal access to health care. It will take years to understand the full impact of the ruling, but it most surely will affect every one of us in some way or another.
A fourth generation Coloradan, GJ Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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