This morning the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that corporations that are “closely held, for-profit companies” can claim a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives to their female employees. What this means is that, according to our nation’s highest court, it’s totally ok for a woman’s employer to prevent her from obtaining the contraception of her choice through her health insurance. In 2014, our Supreme Court has ruled that it is perfectly fine — totally acceptable! — for a woman’s boss to make decisions regarding her health and her lifestyle. DAFUQ?!
The ruling was made in response to for-profit corporations, like the crafts store Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain “founded on Biblical principles” — challenging a provision of the Affordable Care Act that required companies with more than 50 employees to cover contraceptive services, like morning-after pills, diaphragms and IUDs.
Representatives from Hobby Lobby argued that the use of some contraceptives is equivalent to abortion, and for that reason providing the coverage through their company compensation packages would violate their religious beliefs (which I guess are more important than a woman’s right to choose her own health services through her company insurance). While the Obama administration argued that the freedom of religion exemption applies only to the company owners individually and not to the for-profit corporations they run, the Supreme Court disagreed and decided that entire corporations can be exempt from following the law if the individuals who run it are religious zealots who think that their beliefs should apply to their employees regardless of whether those individuals share their beliefs.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, stating: “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” She continued, saying the government has a “compelling interest” in providing no-cost birth control to women. “Those interests are concrete, specific, and demonstrated by a wealth of empirical evidence. To recapitulate, the mandated contraception coverage enables women to avoid the health problems unintended pregnancies may visit on them and their children.”
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, called the decision a blow to women’s reproductive health:
“Today, the Supreme Court ruled against American women and families, giving bosses the right to discriminate against women and deny their employees access to birth control coverage,” Richards said in a statement. “This is a deeply disappointing and troubling ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly-wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control.”
This ruling comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that a buffer zone at abortion clinics in Massachusetts protecting them and their patients from protesters is unconstitutional. Now, protesters have the right to get in the doorway of clinics and in the faces of patients — to harass, yell, intimidate, and literally stand in the way of women seeking abortions and various other health services. I am so disgusted by our country right now and the way we continue to take one step forward and two steps back in regards to civil rights. This is a sad day to be an American, and especially an American woman.
Whether you think today’s ruling affects you or not, if you are a woman or know and love a woman or are raising children who might grow up to be women or love and care for women, or if you’re someone who has enjoyed company-provided compensation packages and the ability to make choices regarding your own health care through those company-provided compensation packages, then this ruling affects you. When you start stripping the rights of some citizens, the rights of other citizens are in jeopardy, too. If that bothers you, vote into office people who will help protect your rights and vote out the politicians who are taking us back to the dark ages one terrible, fucked-up ruling at a time.