Hobby Lobby Contraception Case Sets Devastating Precedent

Supreme Court rules against women's right to contraception.

By Erica C. Barnett June 30, 2014

The C Is for Crank

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that non-publicly-owned corporations like Hobby Lobby have the right to refuse, based on their "sincere religious beliefs," to provide their employees with health care such as certain forms of birth control, like emergency contraception and IUDs, that they would otherwise be required to cover under the federal Affordable Care Act. 

The companies, led by Hobby Lobby, argued that they believe (against conclusive scientific evidence) that IUDs and emergency contraception cause abortions by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the wall of a woman's uterus, and that, because their owners oppose abortion on religious grounds, they shouldn't have to abide by the ACA's mandate that they cover birth control for their female employees. 

The decision not only creates a precedent wherein women are regarded as second-class citizens under the law (still waiting to hear Hobby Lobby's objections to coverage for Viagra and vasectomies), it also further calcifies the decision in Citizens United that corporations are people who can have, in this case, "sincere religious convictions" that allow them to deny medical care to their employees, whether that medical care consists of antidepressants and mental health care (Scientology), blood transfusions (Christian Scientists), in vitro fertilization (which some Christian extremists argue kills babies because it requires the destruction of fertilized eggs) or vaccinations (various religious sects and others who "sincerely believe," contrary to all evidence, that vaccines cause autism and other diseases.) 


Or that lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender people don't deserve health care coverage because of their "deviant" lifestyles. 

Or that non-"natural" childbirth—birth assisted by modern medical technology like painkillers and, when necessary, surgery—is against God's will. 

Not to mention, as dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (who, along with the Court's two other female judges, dissented from the opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito), put it in her dissent: "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."

This decision is devastating not just to the millions of American women who have used some form of medical contraception (an estimated 99 percent, regardless of religious beliefs). It creates a dangerous precedent for corporations to declare that their "religious beliefs" absolve them of the responsbility to provide health care for their employees for virtually any reason, whether it's opposition to women having sex or simple cheapness.

Under today's ruling, corporations' "religious objections" trump legal, and moral, obligations. That's bad news for all of us—not just those of us who can get pregnant.  

Sure hope Boeing doesn't become a conscientious objector. 


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