Corporate Rights Trump Women’s Health in Hobby Lobby Ruling

‘This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer at Common Dreams

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Defenders of women’s health and reproductive freedom are reacting with anger to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday which ruled that an employer with religious objection can opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Writing for the majority side of the 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the “the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates [employers’] religious beliefs.”

Rights advocates were quick to condemn the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end,” Hogue continued. “Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions.”

Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control for a variety of health reasons, according to research by women’s health organizations.

“The fact of the matter is that birth control is a wildly popular and medically necessary part of women’s health care,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization.Chaudhary adds that despite it’s clear necessity for the reproductive health of the majority of women, one in three women have struggled at some point to afford birth control.

Monday’s ruling focuses specifically on companies that are “closely-held,” which analysts report covers over 90 percent of businesses in the United States.

The dissenting opinion, penned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and supported by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and mostly joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, acknowledges that the decision was of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The opinion was based largely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest.

“There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts ‘out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,'” Ginsburg adds, concluding: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Echoing Ginsburg’s concern, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the ruling “a double-edged disaster,” saying it “conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Similar reactions were expressed on Twitter following the news. Summarizing the crux of the decision, NBC producer Jamil Smith wrote:

The Hobby Lobby decision means that in terms of personhood, corporations > women. And Christianity > everyone else.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 30, 2014

Others, joining Ginsburg’s outrage that now “legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs” would be denied essential health coverage, expressed their opinions under the banner “#jointhedissent.”

#jointhedissent Tweets

The majority opinion leaves open the possibility that the federal government can cover the cost of contraceptives for women whose employers opt out, leaving many to look to the Obama administration for their next move.

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Will Bosses be Able to Deny Women Birth Control?

Corporations are a legal construction, they are NOT “people” and as such do NOT have the same rights as individual citizens.  But, that doesn’t matter to corporate CEOs who are apparently practicers of far right religious zealotry.  To them, it’s not sufficient to sequentially discriminate against individual citizens, they now want the right to discriminate against an entire class of citizens, women, based on the CEO’s religious zealotry.  This has to stop!

If SCOTUS strikes the provision in ACA requiring employer policies to assure accessibility to contraception, is that the line they’ll draw?  Or, what happens when the next religious zealot decides it’s against his religion to provide ANY healthcare whatsoever and that they should pray the sickness away instead.  Will they rule in favor of that CEO’s views as well?

Republicans can use their revisionist history and scream as loud as they want, how this is a “christian” nation and how our founders intended to create a nation built upon those tenets, but that’s simply NOT the case. People migrated to the Americas to escape the religious discrimination and deadly purges present in Europe each time leadership shifted.  At the time of our nation’s founding there were multiple religious groups who could have vied for the “official religion” yet that’s not what happened.  Instead, our founding fathers created a “secular” nation with no official religion and no religious tests for its leadership. Instead they set into law, the tenet of religious freedom for all “men” (now interpreted for the last century to be a generic interpretation for both men and women).

Just as each individual President of  the United States of America is denied the ability to put his religion above the law and impose his religious beliefs on the citizens of this nation, NO corporate CEO should be able to put his religion above the law and discriminate against U.S. citizens he’s hired to work in various roles within his U.S. incorporated business.

If the Supreme Court chooses to bestow religious rights on legal entities, corporations, it will set the stage for our next civil war — deciding which religious entity will be our nation’s official religion.  So just like we’re seeing all that religious strife in the Middle East amongst the various religious Muslim sects, this could lead to religious strife across our nation.

Personally, I prefer a secular nation where people have constitutional rights and where corporations have rights to conduct business throughout out nation, but which are not afforded the exact same constitutional rights afforded the actual people of this nation.

NARAL Pro-Choice America on Supreme Court Decision to Hear Case on Contraception Coverage 

Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases related to the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. NARAL Pro-Choice America released the following statement from President Ilyse Hogue:

“While most people agree this much ado about birth control is a waste of time that could be spent on more pressing issues in our country, we’re pleased that the Supreme Court will finally lay to rest the question of whether women’s bosses get to decide if we deserve contraceptive coverage. That this reflects an underlying obsession with controlling women’s lives seems obvious when you observe that the enemies of the new law are not pushing to deny men access to Viagra or any other number of similar medical requests covered by insurance.

“Obviously, we hope the court upholds existing rulings that – in a country where over 99 percent of women report using birth control at some point in our lives – bosses have no business imposing their own politics on their employees’ health and decisions. If we start with birth control, will bosses next get to decide whether or not we get our children vaccinated? Or whether we can use treatments from stem cell research for life-threatening diseases? Allowing this intrusion into personal decisions by their employers opens a door that won’t easily be shut.” 

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NARAL Pro-Choice America Fact Checks Heck

Pro-choice group calls out Rep. Joe Heck’s false statement ahead of next debate

Washington, D.C. – NARAL Pro-Choice America set the record straight ahead of the October 25 debate in Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. The group calls attention to a false statement made by incumbent Rep. Joe Heck during his last debate with challenger, John Oceguera.

At the October 11 debate, Joe Heck looked into the camera and told the audience in no uncertain terms that he supports a woman’s right to choose in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the woman is in jeopardy.  Unfortunately, his voting record does not reflect that claim.  On July 31, Heck voted for H.R.3803, a bill banning abortion care after 20 weeks in Washington, D.C. – a proposal that has no exception in cases of rape or incest.

In 2010, more than 188,000 rapes or sexual assaults were reported in the United States.

Joe Heck earned a rating of five percent in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 2011 Congressional Record on Choice. His record includes votes to eliminate funding for the Title X family-planning program, and support for a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse emergency abortion care, even when a woman’s life is in danger.

NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC has endorsed John Oceguera’s campaign to represent Nevada’s 3rd congressional district.