Just a little while ago, I read a blog post by Dr. Jackie Roese regarding the upcoming Supreme Court decision about the Hobby Lobby case. She makes the argument that we, especially women, are “eating cheeseburgers” when it comes to the issue of contraception for women – that it seems so straightforward and obvious that women should have easy access to contraceptives, we just go about our regular lives, munching on our cheeseburgers and not worrying about this case or its implications. But depending on how the Court rules, the decision on the Hobby Lobby case could make us think differently.
The Hobby Lobby case asks a simple question – can corporations refuse to cover certain kinds of birth control for women by claiming First Amendment religious freedom protections, despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act requires insurance to cover birth control? So, should corporations have this power – yes or no? It is a simple question, with a simple answer of ‘no,’ but it is the far-reaching implications that come from studying the issue that make things a bit more complicated.
The Affordable Care Act requires for-profit organizations to cover birth control for women on their employees’ health insurance plans. Any non-profit, religious organization with a religious objection to contraception can opt out of this coverage. And obviously any individual with a religious objection to using contraception is not forced to do so. This distinguishes individuals and non-profit organizations formed for religious reasons from corporations formed to make profits. If we start treating for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby the same as churches and allow them to claim to have a faith, we create a bunch of problems. Let’s take a look.
In this case, corporations are claiming they should be able to ignore laws they don’t like by claiming the laws violate their faith. But everyone knows corporations do not have souls. They cannot have faith. Corporations were not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Corporations were created by states to provide liability protections for their owners and to create an organizing mechanism to make profit. It cheapens our religious freedoms and the idea of faith to say that faith is something a corporation can have. And it raises the risks that the government will have to take a more active role in litigating and deciding what counts as religious activity, and what is and is not a valid expression of it, as corporations continue to use religion to bypass any of our laws they happen not to like.
Because supporters of Hobby Lobby have claimed to be against abortion, and many of the women’s groups who are pro-choice have opposed Hobby Lobby, many assume that a Hobby Lobby win would reduce abortions. But the opposite is true. Restricting access to contraception actually leads to more unintended pregnancies, which studies have consistently shown result in many more abortions. As the recent Faithful Dems post by Lindsey Bergholz explains, we all want to lower the number of abortions in America, but restricting contraceptives is not the way to do it. If this case goes in Hobby Lobby’s favor, there will be more unintended pregnancies and more abortions. As Christians, we should do everything we can to ensure that doesn’t happen, while at the same time staying true to our progressive values and giving women as many choices as we can. Giving women access to contraception fulfills both of these needs.
Last but not least is the issue of women’s choices. As women, we have made so much progress since the second-wave feminism of the 1960s that it is easy to take for granted the gains that we do have. However, events such as this pending Hobby Lobby case should remind us how precarious our rights and choices are. Should the Supreme Court rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor and agree that women’s right to contraception can be restricted, hundreds of thousands of women and their families would be put in jeopardy. As Democrats, we must raise our voices in defense of the fundamental right of women to plan when they will have a family and what size it will be. And as people of faith, we should think hard about the best ways to support our families and let all people make the decisions that fit best with their values and beliefs. Dr. Jackie Roese puts it well:
“I want to consider how fortunate I am to have choices. I want to spend a second grieving for women around the globe who don’t. And I at least want to contemplate what this court decision means on a broader scope for us as women, women who have had choice for so long we are eating burgers and drinking ice cold cokes while watching fireworks as those in power make powerful decisions – about me. A woman.”