Women Need To Know What The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling Means For Them

by Katie Gonzalez

With a controversial Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, the highest law of the land has now determined that certain companies can circumvent stipulations of the Affordable Care Act if they cry out with the excuse of having a religiously-motivated moral qualm with women exercising their right to reproductive autonomy.

Dealing a major blow against women, the court was seemingly more preoccupied with making sure that corporations’ rights to religious beliefs were preserved through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, they neglected that our country’s female residents should be allowed to enjoy their own right to purchase birth control through the employee health plans they already pay for.

In this instance, the majority opinion from five male justices was seemingly more willing to cater to emotions of a brand than the well-being of an individual.

I won’t pretend that I’m all-knowledgeable about the complexity of this ruling, of all the laws and precedents that SCOTUS considered before reaching what was clearly a close and contentious decision.

But what I do know is simple, and doesn’t require a Supreme Court ruling: Women deserve better.

Women deserve better from their parents who teach them to be pretty princesses instead of doctors and professors; they deserve better from high school and college curricula that has somewhere along the line largely excluded them from STEM classes.

They deserve better from industry leaders and tastemakers who determine and then promote homogenous and unrealistic beauty standards. They deserve better from boyfriends and lovers and total strangers who feel a sense of entitlement over female bodies and sexual desires.

And they certainly deserve better from our society and its views toward the current healthcare system —one that has made talk of contraception a seemingly taboo subject while simultaneously making the ability to attain birth control expensive and often prohibitively complicated.

But instead, the Hobby Lobby determination has somehow situated women as possessing fewer liberties than their corporate employers. The 5-4 decision will help corporations (fondly referred to by Mitt Romney as “people”) enjoy seemingly more rights than the women who work for them.

After all, corporations can now decide they don’t want to pay for birth control offerings, despite a healthcare mandate. Women don’t have such a luxury — their religious and conservative companies can now simply say “no,” making their only option for contraception a pricy, out-of-pocket expense.

The ramifications that this ruling has on women will certainly herald new obstacles and other difficulties women will be forced to overcome without the support of the court.

But perhaps even more troubling is how so many justices were more willing to concede to the rights and “beliefs” of these large conglomerates, remaining less attune to ruling in favor of actual female people.

Here are our main takeaways from the now-closed Hobby Lobby case:

Birth Control Isn’t About Prevention and Regulation

The Hobby Lobby case highlighted how two corporations — a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer — believed (despite medical evidence to the contrary) that some birth control options don’t simply prevent pregnancy, but they cause abortions.

In this sense, these companies are choosing to make birth control a life or “death” issue, entirely ignoring the medical benefits of birth control, as well as its alternative uses and effects.

Birth control isn’t solely about reproductive rights, it’s also about larger personal freedoms. Many women choose to use contraceptives for alternative uses than just preventing pregnancy — according to the Guttmacher Institute, for example, approximately 14 percent of birth control users rely on the pill and other forms for non-contraceptive purposes.

In the United States, there are an estimated 1.5 million women who rely on birth control for things like reducing menstrual cramps, preventing chronic acne and treating endometriosis

It’s troubling that the Supreme Court allowed this ruling based off religious beliefs that are not grounded in scientific fact and evidence, especially since there are other religious beliefs that dictate unfounded and crazy claims.

Of the same cloth as people who use religious motivations to say popping a birth control pill equates to “murder,” are those who believe that gay people will burn in hell and sentencing a woman to death is proper punishment if she engages in pre-marital or other forms of “illicit” sex.

Birth Control Now Must Play a Role in Your Job Search Description

This ruling shouldn’t just change the way women think about their rights to affordable and available contraception options, it changes the way they should consider employment options.

Gone are the days when a salary, 401(K) plans, and the opportunity for upward mobility were the most important factors to consider when determining whether or not to accept a job offer.

Add two questions to your job interview Qs: Is this company religiously affiliated? Does the insurance cover birth control? #hobbylobby — Steph Herold (@StephHerold) June 30, 2014

Now, women will be forced not just to consider how such a job will advance their career, but the religious beliefs of their actual employers.

Women must be prepared: If your corporate employer subscribes to certain views, he or she can restrict you from spending your hard-earned paycheck on the contraception that the federal government determined can be purchased with your employer-offered insurance.

The Hobby Lobby case decided that privately owned, closely-held, for-profit corporates could elect to limit healthcare coverage if the contraception mandate violated one of their religious beliefs. Over 90 percent of the for-profit corporations in the US are considered closely-held today, currently employing 52 percent of the work force.

That means that these majority groups — which include the likes of small businesses, like Hobby Lobby and Contestoga Woods, but also span to larger corporate forces, like Dell and Koch Industries — can refuse to allow women to include contraception in their insurance plans.

If you're a working woman who doesn't want to pay out of pocket for daily birth control pills or other methods, your pool of potential employers may be drastically drying up.

Women are Not a Marginalized Minority

Despite the fact that women make less money than men for the same work, or have a lesser chance of ever holding a leadership position in the corporate world, and are targeted for violent attacks simply due to their anatomy, the court’s ruling clearly indicates that American women can’t be viewed as a marginalized minority.

In its issuance, the majority opinion reveals that the Hobby Lobby ruling would be entirely different if the group in question were black people or gay people. They’re protected against discrimination, but women who want to be able to afford the means by which they need to control their own hormones? Not so much.

The Hobby Lobby ruling precludes some women of making decisions for her body, and puts the responsibility for determining her ability to pay for healthcare needs in the hands of her boss.

The financial burden alone that this ruling places on women will make contraceptives no longer an option for some women — the cost of implementing an IUD without insurance coverage can range from $500 to $900.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her scathing dissent of the majority opinion, this out-of-pocket cost for the procedure can equate to the amount that many minimum wage-earning women make in one month.

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