Supporting Reproductive Health in the Wake of the Hobby Lobby Ruling
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against women. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled against religious liberty. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court decided that corporations have equal rights and protections as individuals, once again pitting the powerful against the powerless. Two weeks ago, I got angry.
Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of craft stores, asked the Supreme Court to determine if for-profit corporations could deny the no-cost contraceptive coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to their employees, based on the employers’ religious beliefs. While the ACA provides ways for religious institutions and religiously affiliated non-profits to opt out of the no-cost contraceptive mandate, there was an expectation that all for-profit company’s insurance plans would cover this basic aspect of health care. The Hobby Lobby v. Burwell case, however, asked the Supreme Court to acknowledge the so-called “religious liberty” of for-profit corporations.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against women and their reproductive health in the name of a twisted application of religious liberty. The ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby maintained that ‘closely-held’ for-profit corporations, almost 95% of United States corporations, possess more religious liberty and rights than their female employees. The qualifications offered in the majority opinion suggests that these loopholes apply only to contraceptive coverage and not to other religiously contested medical opinions, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions, and that in other circumstances, religious freedom must not be used as a tool for discrimination. Past Supreme Court rulings with similarly narrow decisions, however, have transformed over time to harm larger swaths of the population and sway further away from the original stipulations. Just days after the ruling was released, groups began to exploit the so-called “religious liberty” of corporations to discriminate, particularly against members of the LGBTQ community.
Even if these loopholes are not exploited in the name of further oppression of marginalized communities, this focus only on women’s reproductive health once again reminds us that our government would rather protect corporations than individuals, especially women, and that we have a long fight ahead to ensure reproductive freedom and equality for all. Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Peter Morales writes, “Though I am exceedingly disappointed in this ruling, I reaffirm the commitment of the UUA to work for reproductive justice…because ‘justice is what love looks like in public.’”
While I find myself extremely disappointed and disheartened by this Supreme Court ruling, I have found hope in the progressive work that has already begun to take shape. This week, the United States Senate will vote on the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act. This piece of legislation, also called the Not My Boss’ Business Act, was crafted to protect employees from the Hobby Lobby decision by making it illegal for employers to refuse to provide any health coverage, including contraceptive coverage, that is guaranteed to their employees and dependents under federal law, such as the ACA. I encourage you to join me in spreading the word about the detrimental Supreme Court ruling and this progressive piece of legislation by talking to your peers, sharing a graphic on Facebook, or calling and writing your Senator.
Working to correct the damage done by the Supreme Court will be a long and difficult road. The Not My Boss’ Business Act is one of many necessary responses that the progressive faith community will have to the Hobby Lobby ruling over the coming months – stay tuned for more ways to ensure reproductive rights, health, and justice are protected for all!
In frustration and hope,
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation Clara Barton Intern