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Hobby Lobby and Birth Control: Just Give Us Universal Health Care

Hobby Lobby and Birth Control: Just Give Us Universal Health Care
  • On July 4, 2014

I should subtitle this article “on the oh so tired rage I feel today.”

On June 30th the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The gist of the ruling is that Hobby Lobby, and other “closely held” corporations (i.e. family owned) are allowed to exempt themselves from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover various forms of birth control. Hobby Lobby argued that paying for these types of birth control violated their religious beliefs, therefore they shouldn’t have to.

The Supreme Court decided that because the ACA allows religious exemptions for churches and some non-profits, a for-profit company like Hobby Lobby should also be allowed to have them. Theoretically, the ruling is very narrow. It’s limited to these “closely held” corporations. However, the dissenting opinion by the “liberal” judges (Sotomayor and Ginsburg, Kagan and Breyer declined to comment on this bit) argues that the ruling is in fact a dangerous precedent, and could lead to all kinds of barn doors being thrown open. Her argument is as follows:

Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private. Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate.

Also? In fact, 90 percent of American businesses qualify as “closely-held corporations.”

What else do you suppose corporations will want to opt-out of on “religious grounds?” Health care for GLB employees? Certainly the fight to get insurances to cover transgender treatments has been long, hard and not particularly successful. This won’t help the cause, I imagine. Most transitioning people I’ve met have paid out of pocket for every bit of their treatment which is far more complicated than just “the surgery” or “the hormones.” What about people who are anti-vaccine due to religious reasons. Will corporations stop funding those as well?

Some may argue it is reactionary to make these fear-based statements so soon after the ruling. The way I see it, if Ginsburg is worried then I am too. The war on women’s reproductive rights has become startling in recent years. Victories for the anti-abortion movement* have slowly begun to erode what freedoms women have gained in the last 40 years.

What really kills me is that none of this was necessary. The ACA is not a mandate for corporations. The only mandate is that insurance companies must cover women’s health care including birth control. Hobby Lobby could simply have opted-out of offering a health care plan. They could have funneled that money back to their employees and allowed them to use the marketplace to find health care. Since the ACA, there are lots of options. Hobby Lobby was NEVER required to pay for birth control to begin with. This was a fight against the ACA as much as it was a fight against birth control funding.

None of this even touches on the privacy in health care issue that seems relevant as well. Who does get to decide when and how I seek out health care? At this time, it appears to be whomever will pay for it. Because I do not live in a society where health care is available in a free and equal way, I am forced to disclose my private matters to insurance companies and now even employers. Diagnoses go on my records and can damage my future. The ACA took steps to help end that practice by abolishing pre-existing condition clauses, but health conditions can still affect your status with life insurance (for example). Each time a hole like this one is poked into the ACA, my freedoms are eroded. Everyone deserves safe, affordable health care for no other reason than they are in this world. Health care should be a fundamental human right.

Lastly, what about the issue of religion in the decision at all? Why is religion allowed to play any kind of part in deciding the fate of others. By exercising their right to deny birth control coverage, Hobby Lobby is forcing their religious agenda onto the backs of their employees. As of now, that’s completely legal. The Supreme Court decision does specifically state that religion cannot be used to discriminate against employees, which is good, but allowing religion this far into legal precedent seems like a dangerous move. Lots of people believe a lot of things. How far are we willing to take religion as a reason to do or not do something?

It isn’t that this one decision is going to bring about The Handmaid’s Tale. However, I believe we should be as careful as humanly possible in the law to not allow one group to overshadow another’s bodily rights. All of this can be avoided in one simple way–free, accessible health care for everyone. The entire argument is ridiculous. Allow Americans access to heath care no matter what their bosses say.

*I do not call anti-abortion folks “pro-life.” I am also pro-life. I believe that every living being has the right to choose what happens to their body. If you can’t force me to give up an organ to save a life, you can’t force me to donate my uterus to another living being either. That is MY CHOICE. You do not remove my right to defend myself if someone is trying to harm me, despite putting that other person’s life at risk.

There is a lot of grey area regarding what “life” is. The fact remains that my life is my own choice, and each person has the responsibility and moral directive to choose what is best for them. You cannot rightfully force someone to make a choice about their health and well being for the sake of another. Period.

(Supreme Court image in the public domain)

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  1. Bird on a Beverly (@birdonabird)

    Very well said, all around. Thank you.

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