If you're anything like me, the last 36 hours or so have been filled with rage, tears, and yelling obscenities at the Supreme Court over it's appalling ruling allowing employers to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for some forms of birth control. This blatantly sexist travesty was compounded this morning when SCOTUS clarified that the decision is not limited to the four types of contraception specified in the Hobby Lobby case, but extends to ALL methods of birth control.
In light of the number of times I've have had to engage in debate with friends, family members, coworkers and random people on the internet as to why the Hobby Lobby ruling is terrible for women, I've compiled a list of the most frequent arguments I've heard in support of the decision and some (hopefully!) handy links and talking points refuting said arguments.
1. Should the government be able to force companies to pay for something that goes against their religious beliefs? What about their right to religious liberty?
On one level, this all stems from the Citizens United ruling. This is the infamous case in which the Court held that corporations are 'people'. There are obviously a number of real, substantial, non-trivial differences between a person and a corporation, including but not limited to the fact that an actual human being can: A.) die, as opposed to going out of business; b.) go to jail if they commit a crime, as opposed to, you know, banks and Wall Street firms that are "too big to fail" or completely unaccountable; etc. Many people, myself included, do not believe that corporations should be considered 'people' under the law. SCOTUS (well, at least 5 of them) and I disagree bitterly on this point. So, my to answer the question of "should the government be able to force companies to pay for something that goes against their religious beliefs?" is that yes, I think that the government should have that power.
The government can already force corporations to do all sorts of things that may be at odds with a corporation's religious beliefs - for example, the government compels private companies to abide by federal anti-discrimination laws. Thus, while your religion may tell you that gay marriage is evil/sinful/whatever, that does NOT mean that if you own a bakery, you can't refuse to sell them a wedding cake.* I fail to see how requiring private corporations to comply with a mandate to cover contraception is somehow different. Though who knows what kind of doors this ruling may open for corporations to argue that that also violates their religious liberty...
Which brings us to the second part of the argument: "What about their [corporations'] right to religious liberty?"
Let's remember that corporations *DID* have an alternative to covering contraception, which was simply to not provide health insurance for their employees at all and instead pay a fine. If a corporation's morals are so important (which, as Hobby Lobby invests in funds that include the makers of the morning after pill, IUDs, etc illustrate, they clearly aren't), then the company should be willing to stand up for their convictions and pay the price.
*Caveat: religious organizations are exempt from this, so a church CAN refuse to perform a same-sex wedding. Under the ACA, religious organizations/religious non-profits were also exempt from the contraceptive mandate.
2. Why can't women just buy their own health insurance if their employer doesn't believe in covering contraception? Why should employers have to pay for women's birth control/give women a 'handout' anyway?
I would argue that health insurance should not be tied to employment to begin with. The way the system currently operates is that employers provide their employees with health insurance as one form of compensation for work performed. So its NOT a 'handout', it is an earned benefit. If Hobby Lobby wanted to hand all of their employees who wanted to purchase insurance that covered birth control the same amount of money that the company would be putting toward their health insurance through the company, and the employee would have to cover the difference, then I would be fine with that.....assuming that the laws were modified to allow employees to do that. As the ACA currently exists, however, if an employer offers health insurance, an individual may not always be able to purchase insurance on the exchanges, and the prices of such insurance may be too high to be feasible, given the higher-risk pool of those insured through the exchanges. And those employees would not be eligible for the subsidies or tax credits that other people whose employers do not offer insurance are, even if they make the same amount, making that currently an unrealistic option for many even if the premise of this idea, that Hobby Lobby et al would be willing to give employees such a deal.
3. Why can't women just use whatever methods of birth control their employer does cover? Its not like birth control is medically necessary or anything.
First of all, my employer should NOT have the right to decide what medical treatment I can or cannot access. Those decisions are between me and my doctor. That's not something you hear men ever having to say, because its so obvious that meddling in private medical affairs is something that only ever affects women.
Not all birth control is equal and not all birth control works for everyone. There are a myriad of reasons why one pill may work where other methods may not. [I will use myself as an example of some points, insert your own or feel free to use me as 'your friend' for illustration purposes when discussing with someone.] I personally cannot do an IUD, for example, because in my body, they like to migrate up into the Fallopian tubes...that is not a fun experience. Other forms of birth control interact with other medications I am on and other medical conditions I have, so for me, the pill is the best option.
Which brings us to the next point - there are a number of legitimate medical uses for the birth control pill that have NOTHING to do with preventing pregnancy. In fact, one of the common condition treated with birth control pills is endimetriosis, which can be incredibly debilitating, and in that case, birth control pills can actually PRESERVE a woman's future fertility, for when she wants to have a child! I am on the type of the pill that prevents me from getting my period because I have a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome - Hypermobility. My joints regularly sublux and dislocate, which is unsurprisingly quite painful. During menstruation, the normal laxity hormone that is released causes these issues to become worse and more frequent. So for me, taking a pill that keeps me from getting my period means less laxity hormones, which means fewer trips to the doctor/ER/days off work, etc.
In my particular case, birth control may in fact save my life. If I were to get pregnant, it could very well kill me. I am at high-risk for uterine rupture, hemorrhage, aortic aneurysm, etc, not to mention the potential long-term effects on physical health/quality of life if I did survive a pregnancy. There are many, many other women in similar circumstances and we should not have to disclose such information to our employers in an attempt to 'beg' for leniency in what medical care is covered.
4. Birth control only costs like $15-$60 a month, why can't women just pay that out of pocket? Besides, Planned Parenthood gives out free birth control and you can always just use condoms anyway.
Well, besides the fact that women shouldn't HAVE to pay out of pocket just because their employer has "sincerely held" religious beliefs (never mind that such beliefs are factually inaccurate and scientifically invalid), even is birth control "only" costs $15-$60/month out of pocket, well, lets do the math. For the sake of argument, lets say a woman's birth control costs $37.5/month...over the course of a year, that comes out to $450. That is a substantial amount of money for a teenager, a young woman, someone earning minimum wage, women with families, etc. It may not be much for you personally, but that's not the point. To a vast number of people in our country, that is a barrier to access and that's STILL less than the cost of something longer lasting, like an IUD, that costs about $600 upfront, plus surgical insertion fees in some places.
And please don't tell me how you can just get birth control for free at Planned Parenthood, because over the last decade of so, absurd TRAP laws have forced the closure of TONS of Planned Parenthoods and similar organizations. The nearest PP might be over a 100 miles away, and functional non-existent for many poor women.
As for condoms....CONDOMS BREAK PEOPLE! Typical condom usage is only about 85% effective, which is far less than the 98-99% effectiveness of birth control pills. There are also people who are allergic to latex (hi!), and let me tell you, non-latex condoms are about $9 for a box of 3. I'm in a position in my life where that cost isn't an issue for me, but tell that to a teenage girl, assuming that she hasn't been slut shamed so much by our culture that she's too afraid to even mention condoms to her boyfriend because then she's a "whore" or some such crap. Not to mention the fact that if a woman is sexually assaulted/raped, let's just be realistic about the potential that her rapist is going to respect her request for a condom!
5. Relax, the Hobby Lobby ruling is very narrow! It only applies to "closely held corporations," it won't affect that many people.
Actually, about 90% of companies in the United States are closely held companies! 90%!!!! And those companies employ 52% of the workforce! That's pretty significant and not at all what I would call narrow.
6. Aren't you over-reacting? The ruling doesn't restrict access or prevent women from accessing contraception, it just means that employers can't be forced to pay for them.
While this ruling, in and of itself, may not specifically prevent or restrict women's access, in reality, it does and will. If, in the wake of this ruling, your boss drops contraceptive coverage and you can't afford your birth control, your access has been significantly affected. It may be an indirect effect, but it is by no means an unintended consequence.