Oops! They Did It Again

This article appeared in the Wednesday, July 2, 2014, issue of The Lawrence County Advocate with the subheading, Hobby Lobby decision will restrict women’s choices:

I didn’t want to do it. I held my breath during the debate, hoping the Supreme Court would stay out of women’s healthcare. But alas, they did it again with the “corporations are people argument,” and this time I realized that I must speak out to the other women out there who actually believe in birth control as a right of choice as stated in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In a 5-4 decision on June 30, 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled once again that some corporations have some of the same rights as people. In my op-ed of March 26, With (citizens) united we may fall, I argued that the Citizens United ruling gave corporations and unions a green light to spend countless sums to influence elections, a bad move that puts our country on a slippery slope towards election peddling and gravely threatens our democracy.

This latest decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is equally as sinister. This time the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other “closely-held corporations” are to be granted religious exemption from the ACA’s contraception mandate. Many religious fundamentalists call it a victory for religious liberty.

A victory for whom? Certainly “closely-held corporations” win here. The IRS defines these corporations as having more than 50 percent of their stock owned by 5 or fewer individuals. In the ruling Justice Samuel Alito writes that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires that the “government provide closely-held corporate objectors the same accommodation it already provides nonprofit organization objectors.”

The whole point of incorporating, whether with 5 people or 1,000, is to limit individual liability. Hobby Lobby asked that on one hand it wanted the legal protections only corporations can get but on the other hand special protections that only individuals, churches and religious organizations get. It is unfair and highly dangerous to be able to have it both ways.

Now Hobby Lobby and similar corporations can pick and choose which “religious objections” they find in their insurance coverage (except for blood transfusions and vaccinations, which were excluded from the choice) and not pay for them. They don’t like certain means of contraception (day-after pill and IUDs) because they view them as abortion, so they strike out all of the other birth control pills that help keep unwanted pregnancies and abortions at bay. This way they, the corporations, have forced their religious views on their employees. The ruling also doesn’t bode well for those with mental issues who work for Scientologists, who don’t believe in antidepressants or other medications for mental illness.

Employers and insurance companies long ago figured out that it is cheaper to provide birth control than pay for babies. This tidbit of knowledge might just benefit those who oppose abortion and aid to welfare recipients. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies goes a long way to solving the over-population of the planet and the starvation affecting 842 million people today. Restricting women who choose to work for “closely-held corporations” is not the answer, especially when an IUD can cost as much as a month’s salary for someone on minimum wage and birth control pills are used for acne, heavy periods, and cramping as well as to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg sums it up in her dissenting opinion: “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community…Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude. The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

It is a minefield we fought a revolution to stay out of.

But look at it this way, remarkably, the contraceptive devices and products that so offend the religious beliefs of this family are manufactured by the very companies in which Hobby Lobby holds a substantial stake via their employee 401(k) plan. In other words, Hobby Lobby makes their millions in retirement benefits off the investments of companies who produce and manufacture the very products they refuse to offer their employees.

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