Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Take Two

     This morning while I was driving to work, NPR reminded me that the Supreme Court was going to be releasing their decision on the Hobby Lobby case today.  Although I was a tad bit nervous in light of last week's buffer zone ruling, I thought this one was a no-brainer.  I'm not a constitutional law scholar, but here's a for-profit business arguing that they shouldn't have to abide by a law of the land, because the owners of said company feel that parts of the law violate their religious freedoms.  Imagine my surprise on the very late drive home!
     To recap, in a 5-4 split, the majority ruled that some "closely held" companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in the Affordable Care Act.  This is the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.  The decision means that thousands of the company’s female employees will not have access through their insurance to intrauterine devices and other forms of contraception their bosses object to.  Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, wrote that forcing companies to pay for methods of women's contraception to which they object, violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
     To pull a couple quotes from Justice Ginsburg, who wrote the 35 page dissent for the minority:

“The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage...In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs ... (the court had) ventured into a minefield ... 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."

You can read the full dissent here:
     On face, it's obvious that women who work for Hobby Lobby, and no doubt the companies that will try to follow suit, have several options.  The can still buy whatever contraceptives that the company objects to out of pocket.  They can hope that the Obama administration can find a work-around that will get through the Republican house majority.  They can opt to find another job with a publicly traded company that will probably continue to cover contraceptives, rather then wade into the religion morass.
     Many people quicker on the draw then me have already done the research to discover that Hobby Lobby will continue to cover Viagra and vasectomies:
Or that their retirement plan invests in contraceptive companies:
     As I mentioned the other day, the purpose of these rulings is to ultimately widen the socio-economic gap separating underprivileged women and their families from those with means.  The women who work for Hobby Lobby, and the companies that will take advantage of this ruling ... and mark my words, there will be a lot of "closely held" companies that will suddenly get religion ... do not have a plethora of companies of which to chose.  There will be a slippery slope of rulings to follow.  Maybe it offends my religious views if you get a blood transfusion.  Maybe my God thinks you should just live with your bum knee.  Maybe my church thinks the product of your interfaith marriage, and it's subsequent health needs, are up to you to take care of.
     When the Affordable Care Act introduced the unique notion that your pre-existing health care issue shouldn't exclude you from coverage, that was because up until this novel idea, that pre-existing condition allowed every insurance company from here to Timbuktu to exclude you.  It's not that different from the other novel idea, that contraception should be covered and easily accessible to women.  If the contraception is unaffordable, and by extension inaccessible, those women and their families (this isn't just a women's rights issue - this is a family issue) will have limited options and limited opportunity.

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