SCOTUS Snafu

Women are people.  Corporations are not.  But, what should be apparent and obvious is not necessarily legally true.  The Supreme Court has ruled against the latter statement, and now it seems they disagree on the former, as well.  They are wrong on both counts (in my humble opinion, anyway), meaning there is no logical justification for their decision in the Hobby Lobby case, where they have found that the rights of corporations matter more than those of the women who work for them.

Since the last thing we need right now is another man explaining women’s rights, I will leave that to Katie McDonough at Salon, who writes:

So what does the decision actually mean? In the immediate term, it means that women who work at Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are paying for health coverage (insurance is part of their compensation package, it’s not some gift bestowed upon them by their bosses) that their employers have decided that they can’t have. That’s really what this comes down to in the most blunt terms imaginable. The religious owners of these companies have medically inaccurate ideas about contraception and abortion, and they now get to impose those ideas on the people who work for them. In the majority opinion, five male justices argued that the Department of Health and Human Services can fill in the gaps in coverage created by this ruling by including for-profit companies in the accommodation system created for religious nonprofits and other explicitly faith-based organizations. Women’s health, it seems, has become someone else’s problem.

McDonough raises some important points, the first being that health insurance is not a gift from the employer to the employee.  The employee pays for her health care, and should be the only one who determines what is and what is not covered.  Just like the employer has no right to tell her what she can spend her money on after she cashes her paycheck, the employer has no right to determine what her payment for health care is used for.

The second important point is that Hobby Lobby’s position (and that of other companies with similar pending cases) is based on wrong information.  Their objections are supposedly due to a belief that contraception is the same as abortion, which is simply not the case.  While contraception can prevent pregnancy, it does not terminate pregnancy.  Further, many women who use hormonal contraception do so for other medical reasons, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and various menstrual disorders.  This means that for these women, birth control is medicine.  It is not something that they take to have consequence-free sex (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that), it is something they take to alleviate pain and suffering.  To deprive them of this based on faulty information is inhumane and inexcusable.

I would disagree (if only slightly) with one point, however.  McDonough says “women’s health, it seems, has become someone else’s problem.”  I would counter that this actually means that women’s health has become EVERYONE else’s problem.  In addition to the half of the population that stands to suffer directly as a result of the ruling, the rest of us will feel the effects, as well.  Unplanned pregnancies will likely rise (which means abortions would rise with them), and potentially minor medical conditions could grow into more severe conditions which require further medical care, rather than simple hormonal treatment.  This means health care costs would rise for everyone.  And, for anyone who claims that women should simply pay out-of-pocket for their contraception, I would counter that it is more expensive than most people think.  But, to even entertain that notion means accepting the false notion that men and women deserve to be treated differently.  If the health care I purchase covers every aspect of my health, why should it be any different for a woman?  Do the religious beliefs of the owners of a corporation really matter more than the well-being of a living, breathing person?

Though women (and a few men) have collectively rallied in opposition to the SCOTUS ruling, this is actually an issue that concerns individuals.  If a person has religious beliefs that forbid certain types of medical care, they should be allowed to forego that type of treatment.  That is religious freedom, as guaranteed by the Constitution.  However, they should not be able to force anyone else to do the same. That is not religious freedom, but religious oppression.  One could argue that the decision does not outlaw contraception, merely keeps it from being covered by employer-subsidized health care (which is itself a deeply flawed system).  But, the truth is, the extra cost of paying for contraception in addition to the cost of the health care plan they are already paying for may be too much for some women to afford, and is not a cost they should be forced to pay anyway.

Simply, this ruling gives far too much power to an employer over its employees.  And, it continues a trend where women are not treated as equal to their male peers.  And, many women justifiably feel that they had little say in the decision.  McDonough continues:

To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.

Not all men agree with this decision.  In fact, one very notable man has vocally condemned it:

But, even he is powerless in the face of the five men on the Supreme Court who have decided that not only are corporations people, they are people whose rights and freedoms matter more than the women they employ.  This is shameful.

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