When I started this blog, I made a decision that I was not going to discuss politics on this space. Well, 6 weeks and ten (!) posts later, I’m already going back on that decision – sort of.
As I hope you have heard by now, on Monday The Supremes (as my favorite daily news publication, The Skimm, calls the highest court in the land) ruled 5-4 that the government cannot force corporations to cover employees’ birth control. The ruling was in favor of Hobby Lobby, who argued that the Affordable Care Act’s birth control requirement violated their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law that says the government must not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” The dissent, lead by justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, argued that corporations are not people and thus not covered by the RFRA. If you need a bit of a refresher, this article does a good job of summing up the ruling.
After two days of stewing about this ruling and debating whether I should post about it, I decided that yes, indeed, I should. Because this is not a political issue. This is a human rights issue. An issue that goes to the root of our what makes America great. It’s an everyone issue. And everyone, no matter what side of the aisle you fall on, should be paying attention.
Although I’m my father’s daughter in many aspects, I haven’t yet reached his level of blind liberalism (but I’m sure I’ll get there) and wanted to understand where the majority was coming from. It’s worth repeating that I am not a lawyer, nor a political activist, nor anything that even remotely resembles an expert on the topic. But I think I’ve gathered enough information to share a little bit of what makes me so angry about this ruling. So share I will.
When issuing their opinion, the majority was specific in who this ruling applied to – “closely-held for-profit corporations”, ones with 50% or more ownership by 5 or fewer people. So yes, most for-profit public corporations aren’t affected by this ruling. But “closely” isn’t equivalent to “small”. Dell, for example, would fall under this law, as would Toys-R-Us and Mars candy, to name a few. Don’t be fooled – while this ruling may not directly impact YOU, it does affect millions of Americans.
It’s also worth noting that the ruling does not apply to all forms of birth control, just those that Hobby Lobby took issue with – those that they believe cause abortions, like the IUD and Plan B. The problem is, that ruling now sets precedence for all similar rulings in the lower courts, opening the flood gates. For example, perhaps the owners of another corporation decide that all forms of birth control are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. Then are they not required to offer any form of birth control under insurance? And what about a corporation who’s owners don’t believe in organ donation, or blood transfusions, or vaccinations as part of their religious beliefs? Where is the line drawn?
While I do believe that this ruling is an attack on women and puts us one step closer to where we once were, my biggest concern is not about the birth control itself. It’s about the fact that we are treating corporations as people – and corporations are most definitely not people. Why should the religious beliefs of a corporation’s owners trump the beliefs of the thousands of people that work for them? And where does it stop? What if a corporation decides that it is against their religious convictions to hire Jewish people, or women? Sounds crazy, but it doesn’t’ seem that far off. By ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court has created a very scary loophole, and one that threatens individual freedoms. As Justice Ginsberg so eloquently put it, “the court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield”.
I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There are still significant issues to be discussed, like the high cost of birth control, or the fact that an employer can now interfere with the medical decisions between a patient and physician. Or the blatant hypocrisy of a company like Hobby Lobby touting their religious beliefs while at the same time manufacturing in China and investing in companies that make birth control. The list goes on.
If you’ve gotten this far, I hope, at a minimum, I’ve got you thinking (if you weren’t already). Maybe you’re even ANGRY. Not at me, of course (although that’s possible too), but at our Justice System and the High Court that rules it. At our sad state of affairs that even in 2014, some women still can’t obtain affordable birth control. And at the number of people that don’t appear to be paying any attention at all.
I’m Angry. Are You?