“Decisions about women’s health are being made, yet again, by judges and politicians who will never need to use birth control.” – Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America
This past Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that certain American corporations privately owned by religious families can opt out of the federal health law's contraception coverage requirements. This decision has ignited debate over not just Obama’s health care, but also the 1993 religious freedom law that was cited in the Court’s decision making process.
The statute requires federal laws to accommodate an individual’s religious beliefs unless correlated undeniable objectives cannot be achieved through other means. In this 5-4 ruling, ensuring a for-profit business provide its employees with certain types of contraception was deemed a violation of said rights.
This ruling scares me. And leads me to ask many questions.
First and foremost, where can this line be drawn? At what point will circumventing a religious belief be ruled necessary when examining the lives of others? What if someone claimed equal pay for all genders went against their religious beliefs? How would the Court respond to a contestation of minimum wage law? How can we deem one area of contention, like birth control, below the importance of an individual’s religious belief, and not another? Whose value system are we using?
How interesting that health insurance still covers Viagra…
Second, where is the Court's concern for the employee's religious freedom? The employers do not have to take the drug. They can even ban their children from taking the drug. But in no way shape or form should an employer have authority over an employee’s personal medical decisions. The five (male) members comprising the conservative majority of this ruling have essentially deemed the religious beliefs of an employee lesser than that of their employer.
We’ve said this all too many times: My Body, My Choice.
Third, why is health insurance, a part of the employees' compensation, subject to the owners' religious beliefs? No court would ever allow an employer to dictate how an employee can spend their salary, so why can they control the health care portion? Moreover, will health care one day become a-la-carte for employers, simply selecting only the medications and operations which they deem acceptable?
Fourth, how much more will the Court expand the notion of corporate personhood? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that this was the first time religious freedom protections were extended to “the commercial, profit-making world.” This personification of firms is a slippery slope. A for-profit business is just that, an entity: an institution that aims to make money. A business can have a vision and a mission statement, but should not be legally entitled to impose the beliefs of its owners on others.
And although this horrific ruling went through on Monday, I take the littlest of solace in knowing that I’m not the only one who is really, really pissed off.
Justice Ruth Ginsberg (affectionately known as Notorious RBG), wrote a thirty-five page dissent in response to the Court’s ruling, declaring the Court had stepped into a legal “minefield.” Alongside countless arguments against the future cases this decision will invite and the very real consequences this will have for women, Justice Ginsberg noted the ruling’s slippery slope. For example, companies run by Scientologists could refuse to cover antidepressants, and those run by Jews or Hindus could refuse to cover medications derived from pigs (such as many anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or medications coated in gelatin).
Star Trek actor George Takei, criticizing the Court’s ruling, cited Ginsberg’s comment on the ruling’s uncertain consequences. “One wonders,” he said, “whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.” Takei declared Monday’s decision “a stunning setback for women’s reproductive rights.”
Charles Schumer, who introduced the bill in 1993, exclaimed the decision made by the Supreme Court was "dead wrong." The law he introduced, Schumer explained, was to give people the ability "to exercise their religious beliefs without government interference." The law, "was not intended to extend the same protection to for-profit corporations, whose very purpose is to profit from the open market."
I hate to say it, but the world is going into hell in a hand basket.
Too bad we aren’t surprised.