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.

An Apology to the Women of America


Rush Limbaugh booking photo from his arrest in...

Hey, ladies. This guy thinks you're too stupid to think for yourselves. What an asshole.

America is at war. This is nothing new. What is new is the enemy. Having tired of fighting so-called terrorists overseas, this country has found a new target. Led by the Republican Party, and specifically the Religious Right, a war is being fought against the women of America. Like most American wars, however, this one is being fought for all the wrong reasons. The stupid white men that make up the government have decided that women and their freedom are the greatest threat currently facing this nation. And, on behalf of all those stupid white men, I would like to say one thing: I’m sorry.

In the past few weeks, there has been a parade of ridiculousness by men waving the flag of religious morality as they attempt to restrict women’s access to health care services including abortion and contraception. The Supreme Court has ruled that both of these are legal, so the Republican Party has tried to find clever ways around this fact. Sadly for them, being clever is not their strong suit.

Several states have tried to change the concept of personhood, arguing that human life begins at the moment of conception. This is contrary to scientific consensus, but the GOP has overcome this obstacle by simply ignoring the science. This is the same strategy they have used on issues from climate change to evolution. And, just like in those cases, it has left them looking foolish.

Their idea is that by calling an embryo a person, abortion would no longer be a medical procedure. Women who received abortions would now be murderers, as would the doctors who performed them. But, this theory ignores the fact that many pregnancies end naturally, without the intervention of a doctor. Miscarriages are an unfortunately common occurrence, but would now be cause for a criminal investigation to make sure no foul play was involved. This personhood initiative would also outlaw most forms of hormonal contraception, as anything that prevented an egg from becoming a fully-formed human being would now be against the law.

There has also been a more direct attack against contraception. According to the Catholic Church, contraception is not permitted. Religious groups have attempted to use this doctrine to claim that religious institutions should not be required to provide contraception to their employees as part of their health benefits. President Obama dodged this ploy by requiring the insurance companies to cover these costs instead of the religious institutions. This was not a satisfactory solution for the religious fanatics, even though it was embraced by insurance providers.

According to estimates from the insurance companies themselves, it would cost about $4 billion per year to provide contraception for every woman in the country. These same insurers are now spending close to $11 billion each year on unplanned pregnancies, including pre-natal care, delivery, and other related expenses. As would be expected, insurance companies are in favor of any idea that involves paying out less money.

Religious zealots in the Republican Party, however, cling to the idea that contraception and abortion are against the will of the Catholic Church, and should therefore be outlawed, despite the fact that they rarely follow church doctrine when making policies. Some other things opposed by the Catholic Church, for example, according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops: the death penalty, war, anti-immigration laws, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Some things the Church favors: universal health care, workers’ unions, and an increase in the minimum wage. The GOP has ignored the wishes of the church on all of these major issues. To claim that this is a battle over religious freedom and has nothing to do with oppressing women is beyond ridiculous. It is condescending and offensive.

The stupid white men that run this country are uncomfortable with the thought that women are breaking out of the mold that they were stuck in for centuries. They think women are supposed to be silent and submissive, ignorant and obedient, passive and pregnant. They think sex is something for men to enjoy and for women to endure. And, they think that if women won’t willingly revert back to this idealized male notion of what they are supposed to be, they can simply change the laws so that women have no choice.

That’s what this whole debate boils down to. Stupid white men are scared that women have choices. Women can choose how they want to live their lives, when and with whom they want to have sex, and when and if they want to become pregnant. And, this reality is terrifying to men whose opinions on women are based on a book written more than 2,000 years ago.

So, as a stupid white man, I want to say again: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for Darrell Issa, the congressman who held a hearing on contraception, but refused to allow any women to testify.

I’m sorry for Rush Limbaugh, who spent most of the last week saying horrible, disgusting things about a woman with the audacity to think that she had a right to have her voice heard at that hearing, while at the same time insisting that insurers should not provide contraception for women but should continue to pay for his Viagra.

I’m sorry for Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio, who sponsored a bill that would allow employers to refuse to cover any health care service they opposed for “moral reasons,” including contraception and abortion, as if there is any moral reason that would justify denying care to anyone who needed it.

I’m sorry for Rick Santorum, the presidential candidate who says contraception is against God’s will, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and dares to call children born to rape victims “a gift from God.”

I’m also sorry that no one in the Republican Party knows how contraception or abortion actually work. They think that anyone using contraception is a “slut” or a “prostitute,” to use the words of the ever-eloquent Mr. Limbaugh, despite the fact that 58 percent of women on contraception use it at least in part for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. In fact, there are women using contraception that aren’t having sex at all. Many women are prescribed contraception for ailments ranging from severe menstrual pain to skin conditions to fibroid tumors to endometriosis to polycystic ovarian syndrome, and some of these women use contraception in order to keep their reproductive systems healthy enough to have children in the future. But, the irony of that is too much for simple-minded Republicans to grasp. They are just as clueless on abortion, as shown in their numerous attempts to pass laws forcing women to undergo ultrasounds before they are able to have an abortion. They think that women don’t know that when they are pregnant it means that they are going to have a baby, and that if they only knew, they would never want to terminate their pregnancy.

There is a small reason for hope, however. Women outnumber men in this country. And, along with the men smart enough to be on their side, they have the power to vote all the stupid white men out of office. But, until they do, these stupid white men will continue to do stupid things, and people like me will be forced to keep apologizing for them.

So, this apology is directed to all the women who have fought for countless years to prove that they are not second-class citizens, that they are fully capable of making their own decisions on what is best for them, and that it is possible to have both a uterus and a brain. I may be a stupid white man, but I know the right side of this battle to be on.