The Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby”

Pretty much everyone who supports women’s right to reproductive health has been lamenting the SCOTUS decision yesterday on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, in which the court ruled that certain closely-held corporations can claim exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies employing 50 or more people cover the cost of workers’ prescription birth control.

The decision claims to be narrow on the basis of its application to closely held corporations, which are corporations with a limited number of shareholders, and because the decision is limited to two forms of birth control, the IUD and emergency contraception.

Many people are outraged over the general implications: With this ruling, the court not only confirms the erroneous view that corporations are people but goes further by asserting that a corporation now has the right to impose its religious views on its workers. And a corporation’s religious views, i.e., its supposed “personhood,” are now more important than the personhood of its female employees (and, by implication, all women), specifically women’s right to reproductive health as part of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate. Hence the illustrated guide to American personhood meme that’s been all over Facebook.

People are now waking up to the fact that the decision is anything but narrow, in other equally alarming ways. Closely held does not mean small, first of all, and the Wall-Street Journal reports that at least one source claims that about 90% of U.S. companies are closely held.

More important is one of the points made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissenting opinion, an implication that people are just now starting to absorb (here’s a report of some of the best points). She rightly understands that if a corporation can claim religious exemption about the issue of birth control, there is nothing to stop them from claiming exemption from covering other things, too. A corporation owned by Jehovah’s witnesses could claim they shouldn’t have to cover blood transfusions; Scientologists would have grounds for rejecting the coverage of antidepressants; Muslims, Jews, and Hindus could claim exemption from medications derived from pigs (including anesthesia, IV fluids, and so forth). On this basis, Ginsburg wrote “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

We are already in the minefield that is the ongoing assault on women’s reproductive health. This ruling comes on the heels of the court’s decision last week to strike down a Massachusetts law requiring anti-choice activists to remain a certain distance from people entering clinics. Now, in certain places, it will be harder to prevent pregnancy, and should you elect to have an abortion in Massachusetts, obnoxious protestors have the right to get in your face and make an incredibly difficult life decision all that much harder.

Chipping away at women’s reproductive health rights and safety is evidently the court’s latest “hobby lobby.”

In conversations and on social media, I’ve been seeing lots of outrage but relatively little commitment to boycotting Hobby Lobby, even though campaigns to do so have already begun.

Here’s the deal: one of the few ways we can influence corporations––perhaps the only way given that the law is not on our side––is to make them understand that we will hurt their bottom line if they try to impose their religious views on others.

That’s why I’ve decided to boycott Hobby Lobby. I don’t care if my daughter is begging and pleading and they’ve got the last freaking piece of yarn on earth. I’d rather she (and all women) have the right to control her health, and I’m not actually confident that she will have that right in the coming years.

If you support the rights of people to be free of their corporate employers’ religious views, will you do more than simply denounce this decision?

 

 

 

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