In last week’s Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the craft store’s request to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, after claiming that providing contraception coverage to their employees contradicts with their “religious freedom.” This ruling is unpopular with the public, a blow to women’s rights, and has the potential to impact women who work for a large number of companies.
A recent Kaiser Health tracking poll found that 61 percent of Americans agreed with the following statement: “Employers should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.”
And when asked about the Hobby Lobby case directly, 55 percent answered yes to the question: “Should a for-profit business owner with religious objections to birth control be subject to the requirement?”
The poll results aren’t surprising when you consider the statistics about contraception use in the U.S.: According to the Guttmacher Institute, 99 percent of women have engaged in intercourse using some form of contraception, and 62 percent of women who are currently sexually active are using contraception methods.
In May 2012, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 89 percent of all Americans, and 82 percent of Catholics, believe that “birth control is morally acceptable.”
The Supreme Court ruled that “closely-held corporations” cannot be forced to pay for their employees’ birth control if they have religious objections. A closely-held corporation is defined as a company where five or fewer individuals own more than half the company’s stock.
This ruling potentially has broad and sweeping implications. In fact, 52 percent of the American workforce is employed by closely-held corporations. Ninety percent of corporations in the U.S. are considered closely-held. If large numbers of such corporations were to attempt exemption, this could impact a huge number of American workers.
Eighty-four companies have already filed for exemption of the mandate as of June 30th. Seven of those companies are located in Minnesota:
O’Brien Industrial Holding
Randy Reed Automotive
Doboszenski & Sons Inc.
In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, vehemently disagreed with the ruling and showed considerable concern about the scope of the decision:
“Although the court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private.”
She also brings up the possibility of the Supreme Court encountering slippery slopes ahead because of the ruling.
“Would the exemption extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions, antidepressants, medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin, and vaccinations. Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”
“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”
The Court’s ruling that corporations have religious views is also a major step backward for women’s rights. With such large numbers of women using contraceptive care, the ruling has the ability to affect thousands of women and prevent them from getting basic health care needs. Why? Because their bosses have a religious objection to their healthcare choices.
Following the Hobby Lobby ruling, women everywhere are asking themselves: why should anyone have a right to dictate the use of your healthcare besides yourself?
President Barack Obama has made it very clear that he is extremely disappointed with the ruling.
“No you can’t deny women their basic rights and pretend it’s about your “religious freedom.” If you don’t like Birth Control, don’t use it. Religious freedom doesn’t mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs,”
he said about the case.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that corporations have individual rights that trump those of the women who work for them. We’ll have to wait and see how many conservative companies will push the limits of this ruling.