Disclaimer: This post is being brought over to my current blog from my previous site, so it isn’t as up-to-date as the other issues I will be publishing.
You’ve likely heard by now, but the Supreme Court has officially ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, a decision that will undoubtedly affect numerous court cases in the years to come.
Basically, it means that for-profit companies (e.g. corporations) have religious liberty. That means that your boss can have a say in your reproductive rights.
To be clear, Hobby Lobby was not initially seeking to completely bar its female employees from access to birth control. They were requesting to exclude their employees from choosing a few specific types of contraception wrongly believed to cause abortions, which they do not support due to their ‘religious beliefs’ and ideals. They will offer a host of contraceptive products, including oral contraception, vasectomies, vaginal rings, condoms, and implants, among others, but will not cover emergency contraception (Plan B and Ella) and IUDs, whether copper or progestin-based. Hobby Lobby’s main goal was to be able to choose which contraceptive drugs to offer to their female employees. Essentially, they were seeking the ability to have a say in the reproductive lives of their workers. And they won that ability.
While this decision is infuriating (because honestly, how many laws have been passed that regulate men’s reproductive health?), it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Because if a corporation – a man-made agency that makes money – has the ability to exercise a religious belief, those religious beliefs could be extended to the workers of that company. It brings up all kinds of questions regarding religious freedom. If Hobby Lobby can withhold birth control, other companies can do the same by simply waving around their religious beliefs. Some companies are very vocal about their religious roots, like Chick-fil-A. Is there a possibility that they could pull the same stunt as Hobby Lobby based on their Christian foundation?
The decision was made 5-4, all five votes compromised of Republican justices. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has bitterly opposed the decision and has already revealed a passionate 60 page dissent condemning the Court for the controversial ruling. Within her dissent, she notes: “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage”. Indeed, this decision will impact women trying to make ends meet, and with a minimum wage that doesn’t even begin to cover basic living expenses, many women are going to be hit with a roadblock, particularly in the realm of emergency contraception.
Many people are commenting on the fact that Hobby Lobby just wants to bar women from access to contraception that causes abortion, which leaves them with a host of other options. But people who say so are completely missing the point. A corporation is an economic body with the primary purpose of making money. Such a body has no business in the reproductive health of any woman. And pharmaceutical drugs are delicate substances. Suppose that a woman is taking a certain type of medication that interacts with other drugs on Hobby Lobby’s ‘okay’ list, so she would prefer to use a copper IUD. What should she do? And God forbid a woman need to use Plan B because her other form of birth control backfired.
This is infuriating not just because of implications for women’s rights, but also because of the very nature of the decision. Hobby Lobby is a national chain of buildings full of objects made primarily in China. It is not a person. A corporation cannot birth or raise a child. They do not have memories or taste preferences or hands to play football with. My final opinion? They are not people.