On June 30, five Supreme Court justices determined that privately-held corporations – which constitute 90% of businesses in the US – can legally force their religious views on their employees, and circumvent federal laws that apply to every person in the United States.
The ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case. sets a dangerous precedent for any “closely-held corporation” to limit employees’ access to healthcare based on an employer’s personally-held, non-medical, ideological beliefs.
Hobby Lobby sued for the right to refuse coverage for IUDs and “morning-after pills” for their female employees. Company owners believe these medically-safe contraceptives to be “abortifacients;” however, they actually work by preventing ovulation and, therefore, do not inhibit implantation. This medical fact has been confirmed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, among others. The majority of abortion opponents in the medical community have accepted this conclusion.
In 2012, evangelical bioethicist Dennis Sullivan, the Director of Cedarville University’s Center for Bioethics in Cedarville, Ohio, reviewed emergency contraceptive research for a peer-reviewed article in “Ethics & Medicine.” He found no evidence that Plan B causes abortions. “There’s no evidence of that effect,” he said. “Our claims of conscience should be based on scientific fact, and we should be willing to change our claims if facts change.”
Of note: Hobby Lobby has chosen to continue to provide coverage for vasectomies for male employees and, through its 401(k) plan, will continue to invest in the manufacturers of the same birth control it refuses to cover for its female employees.
This overt sexual discrimination has not gone unnoticed by Congress.
Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), and Mark Udall (D-CO) have introduced the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” to restore previous contraception-access rules that existed before the Hobby Lobby decision.
This bill will restore the original legal guarantee that women have access to contraceptive coverage through their work-based insurance plans, and will protect coverage of other health services from employer interference as well.
This bill also includes the original exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement for houses of worship, and an accommodation for religious non-profits.
The bill has been endorsed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Global Justice Institute, Institute for Science and Human Values, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Metropolitan Community Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women’s Law Center, People For the American Way, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Population Connection Action Fund, The Center for Women Policy Studies, The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, The Women’s Business Development Center, and Women’s Law Project, among others.
Companion legislation will be introduced in the House by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Diana Degette (D-CO), and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing on July 15, regarding S.B. 1696, referred to as the “Women’s Health Protection Act.”
When workers pay a premium for workplace-based health insurance, they should receive full coverage. Preventive health benefits should not been defined by Congress, government bureaucrats, or CEOs – but by medical researchers, doctors, nurses and medical professionals.
Religious freedom is a founding principle of American liberty – but when this freedom is twisted into something it is not, the results are overt oppression and discrimination, subjugation of the laws of the land, and potential threats to the health and well-being of millions of people. Citizens must act to restore balance and fairness for those who seek genuine religious freedom, and for those who are at risk of becoming casualties of an erroneous legal precedent.
Debbie Lynn Hollis
President of the Shreveport/Bossier Chapter of the National Organization of Women.