Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby has the right to deny insurance coverage for certain types of birth control (IUD and emergency contraception like Plan B) to its employees based on the religious beliefs of its owners. You may have noticed that there’s been a lot of righteous rage on Twitter and all over the Internet, as well there should be. But there’s also been a terrifying undercurrent of apathy. There are those dismissing this as a narrow ruling. There are those who are sitting back and waiting for a loophole to be crafted, as there was for religious non-profit groups. There are those who ignore the ruling because they are unlikely to feel any direct impact. That makes me even angrier.
Yes, I’m with the furious folks, and today I’m taking a break from your regularly-scheduled sex toy programming to talk about it. Life can’t always be rainbow dildos and rumbly vibrators. I think it’s important to get the facts out about this decision, so without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Beliefs trumped science – Hobby Lobby’s reason for objecting to these forms of birth control is that they believe them to be abortifacient, causing the termination of established pregnancies. They believe this to be true because these methods may prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterine lining. The problem is that a woman is not actually pregnant until after implantation occurs. This isn’t an arbitrary statement based on my beliefs. This is the definition of pregnancy used by the American College of Gynecology, a group of over 58,000 doctors dedicated to women’s health care. Pregnancy tests don’t register positive results when an egg is fertilized, pregnancy hormones are produced in response to implantation. A fertilized egg lacks the capability to develop into a human being until it implants in the uterine lining. These are facts, established by medical and scientific professionals. Hobby Lobby’s belief that a fertilized egg equals a pregnancy might be sincerely held, but that doesn’t make it true. Unfortunately, Justice Alito decided that “it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial”…even though medicine and science have already make that clear.
2. But what if you really want to prevent abortions? – Fact: Access to birth control has been proven to decrease the number of abortions, and IUDs are one of the most effective methods of birth control available. They are simple, dependable and long-lasting. The copper IUD offers a highly reliable birth control option to those women who experience side effects from hormonal birth control like the pill. Plan B and other pills like it give women a way to avoid an unwanted pregnancy before it begins. Women who take emergency contraception after unprotected sex reduce their risk of pregnancy by 75-90%. By cutting off its employees’ insurance coverage for these resources, Hobby Lobby is increasing the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy… which is the most common reason that women seek abortions.
3. Hypocrisy – When I started reviewing the case, I tried very hard to accept that Hobby Lobby’s objections to these forms of birth control stemmed from sincere and deeply held religious beliefs. But despite their alleged desire to protect fertilized eggs, their retirement fund invests in companies that make the very products it wants to prevent its employees from using. So financially backing the makers of “abortifacient” birth control to make money is OK with God as long as your employees aren’t getting the products through your insurance plan? I’m not familiar with any biblical passages that support that view. It looks more like corporate greed than godliness… fussing over IUDs when they cost the company money, but not batting an eye at profiting from their sale.
4. Can we please acknowledge that contraception IS health care? – In the lead up to this decision, people speculated that ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby was unthinkable lest it lead to religious exemptions from coverage of vaccines, organ transplants or blood transfusions. But don’t worry, Justice Alito clearly specifies that this ruling only allows religious exemptions to the ACA contraception mandate. Literally every other area of health care is protected from these shenanigans, but not contraception. This despite the fact that the CDC lists advances in family planning as one of the 10 Greatest Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century.
5. This is just the beginning – While the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby opinion protects many aspects of health care from religion-based coverage restriction, the door is wide open for more employers to exempt themselves from some or all of the contraception mandate on religious grounds. The definition of “closely held” corporations used in the ruling applies to about 90% of American businesses, and by extension, to 52% of the private sector workforce. This ruling could affect 60.4 million people. While it’s unlikely that every company that can opt out of contraception coverage will choose to do so, this won’t end with Hobby Lobby. There were already dozens of other companies with lawsuits in process at the time of the Hobby Lobby decision.
So what now? It’s not possible to boycott Hobby Lobby more than I was already doing. Picketing outside Hobby Lobby stores and “counseling” customers about what they support by shopping there would be delightfully ironic on multiple levels, but I suspect it would end badly for the protesters. Also, I would feel bad for the rank and file Hobby Lobby employees who had to deal with all the chaos… they aren’t responsible for this lawsuit. Instead, I’ll be making a donation to Planned Parenthood’s “Join the Dissent” campaign. I’ll be voicing my support for legislation that ensures all women have insurance coverage for the contraceptive method that they and their doctors deem best. And you can be damn sure that I will be looking at candidates’ positions on women’s health issues when it comes time to vote.