On the heels of a decision to eliminate “buffer zones” outside of women’s health centers, the Supreme Court has once again made a horrible choice. Monday’s 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby states that commercial enterprises can cite religious belief as a reason to withhold contraception coverage from their employees.
As part of the Affordable Care Act contraception methods are preventive services that must be provided at no extra cost, but now religious employers can opt out of this mandate. This decision allows employers to impose their religious beliefs on all of their employees, although time and time again women are the ones who are targeted for restrictions. Men’s health care services, such as vasectomies and Viagra, remain untouched and unquestioned. This is a blow to women’s equality and incredibly disheartening for anyone who believes that religion should not be used as an excuse to discriminate.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion in which she explains the many ways in which five of the six male justices got it wrong. She writes that, “Accommodations to religious beliefs or observances, the Court has clarified, must not significantly impinge on the interests of third parties.” Her colleagues, on the other hand, believe that for-profit corporations should be accommodated regardless of the impact it will have on others.
The others in this case are the thousands of women who work for these companies and their dependents. Women already disproportionately carry the financial burden of reproductive health care and face more barriers to receiving health care than men. After this ruling, it won’t be a surprise when more companies begin to claim religious exception and even more women and families pay the price. More women will lose the right to exercise control over their own reproductive decisions. And as we know from the massive impact the introduction of the birth control pill has had since the 60’s, affordable access to contraception is directly related to women’s ability to be active participants in society.
For some time, we have had access to solid scientific knowledge about contraceptive care and an appreciation of the balance between exercising freedoms and infringing upon rights. Despite this, uninformed ideologues have prevailed. I tend to believe that these people are usually the minority, but that the problem lies in the fact that too many of them occupy influential positions in society. Yes, that includes the position of Supreme Court Justice. Sadly, the result has been a regression in equal rights for women and minorities.
In March, I attended the #NotMyBossBusiness rally in front of the Supreme Court when arguments were being made in the Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby cases. I rallied in the snow with activists from Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NOW, and more, to make it clear that we will not be passive as companies attempt to take away autonomy over our own bodies. A smaller, but vocal group of protesters rallied in opposition, touting posters of bloody fetuses and “God’s law is the only law” signs. These are the people celebrating the Supreme Court decision right now thanks to Justices Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, Scalia, and Roberts. Especially in 2014 that is something we should all be ashamed of.
This article was originally published on Hashtag Feminism.