The Damaging Supreme Court Hobby Lobby Decision Revisited

    By Norma J. Goodwin, M.D., Founder and President, Health Power®                                               

The Monday June 30, 2014 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) permitting some employers to make decisions regarding women’s access to contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act was not only damaging to women, but in obvious and not so obvious ways, also to society as a whole.

Health Power for Minorities (Health Power), the Google ranked No. 1 source of health information for minorities worldwide, strongly objects to the SCOTUS decision on contraception for the following reasons:

1. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, more than 99% of women in the U.S. report using, or having used, a contraceptive at some point in their reproductive lives. In other words, most women consider their practice of birth control to be a right, regarsupreme-smalldless of age, marital status, race, ethnicity, education, or religious belief.

2. The decisions of women about birth control are, and should be considered, personal. Therefore, no individual should have the right to impose his or her views about contraception on another person.

3. Likewise, given the many different religions in the U.S., in keeping with the principle of ‘Freedom of Religion’, no person nor entity has the right to impose their religious beliefs on another person – regarding contraception or anything else.

4. We do not consider corporations people because corporations, by their nature, protect their Board members from individual liability. Thus, in spite of the SCOTUS decision, we still question whether corporations have religious freedom and if so, the decision allows them to make even more damaging decisions in the name of religious freedom.

5. The use of contraceptives by women is a widely accepted form of preventive health care among physicians and other health professionals. Further, women who choose to use contraceptives are entitled to related professional advice, rather than being expected to buy them from a drug store without consultation with a physician.

6. Six (6) of the nine (9) justices are male, and an overlapping 6 of them are Catholic, a religion whose doctrine has historically and consistently opposed contraception. Therefore, it is likely that the 5 Catholic men who made up the majority votes in the Hobby Lobby decision were significantly influenced by their personal life experiences and religious values, in addition to applicable legal principles.

7. The Court’s decision reflected inadequate sensitivity to, or understanding of, the broad range of situations many women consider in making decisions related to contraception including employment, ability to pursue career choices, family income, and the nature of living conditions within their households.

8. The decision of a woman to use a contraceptive is often made by her along with her husband or another male partner. Thus, many men and many families, benefit from women’s use of contraceptives, in addition to women. In other words, reproductive decisions of women are “not just a woman’s issue” and again, their employers should have nothing to say, or do, regarding such decisions.

9. Many opponents of contraception also oppose out-of-wedlock pregnancies, two opinions that are in direct conflict with each other. They can’t have it both ways.

10. When unintended pregnancy results from unprotected sexual activity between a man and a woman, society tends to place responsibility on the woman, although “it takes two to tango.” In addition, she is more likely to experience long-term negative results of the pregnancy.

The irresponsibility of many men, at every level of society in “walking away” (so to speak) sooner or later, from women they have engaged in unprotected sexual activity with receives little emphasis, although it often leaves affected women with lowered self-esteem, and thus decreased mental and/or spiritual health.

11. Although many economically disadvantaged racial and ethnic minority women prefer marriage to living single lives, there is a significant scarcity of eligible men for them to marry for a variety of reasons, including the fact that:

– Many are unemployed through no fault of their own;
– Many are underemployed, and thus have inadequate wages to responsibly care for a family;
– Many economically disadvantaged African American and Hispanic men are more likely to be imprisoned for possession and/or use of small quantities of illicit drugs, and then find themselves unemployable after release.

Yet, economically disadvantaged men and women have as much right to engage in sexual activity, which is a natural event, as do middle income and upper income men and women.Thus, women who live in poverty and wish to protect themselves from the potential negative effects of unintended pregnancies should be encouraged and supported in their efforts to do so, rather than being denied ready access to contraceptives, or possibly even stigmatized.

12. Ongoing contraceptive use throughout most, if not all, of a woman’s reproductive years can be costly for many, and thus compete with the cost of other demands of daily living and result in an unknown number of unplanned pregnancies. Direct and indirect socioeconomic costs of unintended pregnancies – for those directly affected, and for society as a whole – are well documented.

13. The SCOTUS decision permitting employers in ‘some’ corporations to become involved in health insurance coverage for ‘some’ contraceptive measures, while not considering it applicable to other preventive care measures such as immunizations and blood transfusions is a very slippery slope.

14. Although Hobby Lobby challenged some contraceptive measures used by women, it reportedly continues to cover the cost of vasectomy, which is a birth control measure used by men, for its male employees.

15. The Viagra/Cialis Double Standard: An especially striking double standard exists regarding possible employer denial of some contraceptive measures for women, while men have ready access to health insurance covered Viagra and Cialis as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Further, these medications are promoted for enjoyment of sexual activity by men, and not for procreation.

How to Help Reverse the Damaging Impact of the SCOTUS Decision on Contraception.

Those who agree with the basic thrust of the above Health Power concerns – especially women, health care providers, and community and national leaders – are urged to speak out along with others, about the damaging effects of the SCOTUS contraception decision.

This is especially important since Hobby Lobby’s challenge to a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may well have been motivated by opposition to ACA, rather than the company’s prior exercise of certain religious principles and/or practices.

Speaking of political opposition, of 22 states still denying ACA funded health care via Medicaid expansion, 20 have Republican governors..

See our other Affordable Care Act related blog post.

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