I remember a simpler time when shopping at a craft store was not a political act. In those hazy golden days of about two years ago, I could simply waltz into a Hobby Lobby, purchase some fabric glue and sequins and not feel like I’d just turned my dollars over to a right-wing cause.
This week, the executives of Hobby Lobby and a company called Conestoga Wood Specialties are at the Supreme Court backing a lawsuit that could gut the new federal requirement that companies must provide insurance coverage for birth control. The owners have been legally battling the new Affordable Care Act rules for two years, saying that their religious beliefs—as Southern Baptists and Mennonites, respectively—trump employees’ right to healthcare.
Katherine Franke, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law sums up why this makes the bosses Constitution-undermining douchebags: “With greater and greater frequency, respecting equal rights is seen as optional while respecting religious liberty is mandatory.”
Billionaire Hobby Lobby founder David Green—who donates half of his company's pretax earnings to groups that spread Evangelical Christianity—argues that his company specifically shouldn’t have to cover emergency contraception because “being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions.” The idea that emergency contraception—like Plan B and IUDs—cause abortions is false. As always-sharp former FDA assistant commissioner for women's health Susan Wood put it, “Their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one." Believing that science, not religion, should be the foundation of our national healthcare policy is not a radical idea. At least, I hope it’s not.
Let us take note that the man who may shape the future of American birth control policy is someone who rides an adult tricycle packed with Bibles.
The fact that contraceptive coverage is up for national debate points to how many people don’t see birth control as an essential part of women’s healthcare. Instead, the Obamacare opponents are framing the ability to prevent pregnancy as extraneous—something only women who make poor life choices would need. Mike Huckabee eloquently articulated the GOP stance on birth control coverage in a recent speech to the Republican National Committee: “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
Regardless of the fact Count Chocula would clearly make a way better Uncle Sugar than a package of progestin, women are not seeking government help to control our raging sluttiness, as Huckabee implies. We want to be able to decide when and if we have kids. We want relief from terrible monthly cramps. We want to have consensual sex that doesn't result in babies. Contraception is a basic component of women’s healthcare: Four out of five sexually active women have taken the Pill and just over 40 percent of American women currently use birth control methods that are covered by the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t a niche issue. It’s a major victory of the Affordable Care Act that contraception is, for the first time in our history, included as part of comprehensive healthcare, rather than an add-on that insurance companies can axe.
The other terrible aspect of this lawsuit, in addition to expanding religious rights at the expense of both economic equality and science-based policy, is that it puts bosses in charge of employee’s private healthcare choices. It’s especially scary that bosses will be in charge of whether their companies will cover employees’ birth control given the demographic of bosses: 92 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are men. If we allow the owners of for-profit corporations to set their policies based on religious beliefs, we will be enshrining certain people’s religious beliefs as more important than others’. The federal government will be granting David Green’s misguided belief that Plan B causes abortions more legal weight than the beliefs of Hobby Lobby employees who don’t believe that their religion bans contraception.
I’m hoping the Supreme Court agrees that this lawsuit’s rationale is downright un-American douchebaggery. If that happens, David Green can finally retire to ride his tricycle in peace.