I was stunned and appalled by the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case, which infringes on a woman’s right to make choices about her own body. The ruling allows corporations to opt out of the contraceptive guarantee because it is “incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” While I understand and value the right to freely practice religion in this country, that does not mean a person, corporation, or employer can impose their religious beliefs on others, especially when it bars access to basic human rights like health care.
When I was 15 years old, my doctor prescribed birth control pills to regulate my menstrual cycle. At the time, I worked in a Catholic Church to help my family pay for tuition at an expensive all-girls Catholic high school. Luckily, that health care decision was between me and my doctor, not my employer. At 15, I cannot imagine having to talk to my pastor about needing birth control. “Hi Father. I haven’t had my period in 9 months. Could you please allow my insurance to cover birth control pills so I can have normal menstrual cycle?”
I don’t think that conversation would have gone well.
In the United States, 58% of women who use birth control use it for medical reasons other than preventing pregnancy. Regardless of the reasons for its use, contraception is basic health care. I believe that quality, affordable access to the full range of reproductive services including cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, birth control, pap tests, and abortion care is a human right that should be protected under law.
The Hobby Lobby decision hurts the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg pointed out in her dissent, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” One of the Affordable Care Act’s goals is to provide millions of women access to vital services. Instead, employers will be able to refuse coverage and women will have to pay extra for basic health care.
As a person who was raised with strong Catholic values, who is driven by the principals of social justice which empower me as a woman’s rights advocate, I am left wondering: what position does this leave women who cannot afford to make the best decisions for their bodies and their families?
Will women be forced to beg their employers for health care?
“Hi Boss. I can’t afford to pay for any additional medical costs, let alone another child or an abortion right now. Can you please reconsider your position to include contraceptive care in my health plan?”
I don’t think that conversation will go well either.
Instead of chipping away at our basic human rights using the term “religious freedom,” we need to ensure that every person is allowed to make their own private medical decisions without interference from their boss, politicians, or even the Supreme Court. Freedom belongs to all Americans, not just a select few.