The Supreme Court vs. Women


There are so many fucking problems with this Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores case I don’t know where to begin. The least of which is the Supreme Court’s forwarded of this corporate personhood nonsense. Oh, to be a corporation. Think about it, because of the malfeasance of the General Motors Corporation, no less than thirteen people have died in fiery wrecks. If you or I were responsible for that, they’d bury us under the jail. But since it’s a corporation, they get a fine and some bad press. So besides being protected from liability, being able to give unlimited amounts of cash to political parties through Super PAC’s, they can now exercise religious views. Corporations aren’t just people. They’re superpeople.

But let’s allow this initial idiot premise to slide — we go headfirst into the next one. First of all, Hobby Lobby is the exact wrong person to be bringing this case. I know it may be difficult to determine if the religious convictions being espoused by the plaintiff are actually genuine. But in this case, it shouldn’t have been. The same types of contraception that the owners of Hobby lobby find so religiously objectionable today, didn’t seem to be an issue before. In fact, if supposed abortion drugs were so abhorrent to the Green family, why were they investing in companies that produce those exact drugs and devices? Where were those objects prior to the Affordable Care Act being signed into law? If the court isn’t judging the merits of the actual religious claim but rather the sincerity in which the religious claims are held, this case should have been thrown out. These religious convictions seem more than a little suspect to me. I mean the Green family didn’t stop investing in the things they thought were religiously objectionable until just before they filed suit. But whether they actually believe what they say is almost beside the point. The larger issue of religious individuals (after all corporations are people now) being able to opt out of the law is what’s really on trial here. Let’s get into the actual case.

One of the most maddening things about this case is one that’s being bandied about by supporters of this ruling. It goes something like: Well, Hobby Lobby actually covers most forms of contraception. They just have a problem with the ones that cause abortions. *deep cleansing breath* OK, whether or not they’re covering this type of contraception vs. this other type of contraception is, how can I put this delicately, NOT THE FUCKING POINT AT ALL!! We’ll get to the whole causes abortions thing soon. But for right now let me just say that we live in a “democratic republic” not a “choose your own adventure” storybook. There are plenty of things that I have moral objections to — like any part of my tax money going toward the war in Iraq. Where’s my refund? Oh right, it doesn’t work that way. Why does an employer get to decide which types of health care his employees have access to? Why does the religious convictions of the owners of a private corporation trump those of their employees? Employees who may belong to entirely different religious faiths or have no religion at all. Remember, formally recognized religious organizations and nonprofits are exempt from this mandate already. We’re talking about yet another exemption for a for-profit business whose sole purpose isn’t to spread the gospel or perform works of charity. Rather, Hobby Lobby was incorporated to make as much money as possible for the owners while limiting their personal liability. Sounds legit.

But even worse than this defense is the fact that religious ideas are now trumping actual science in a court of law. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this case isn’t so much about religion as it is about a profound misunderstanding of biology. The owners of Hobby Lobby believe that emergency contraception causes abortions. From hanging out on the darker corners of the Interwebs, I happen to know that the Plan B pill was given the moniker of the “Abortion pill.” Sounds scary, right? Here’s the thing though, emergency contraception doesn’t cause abortions. And the conservative judges and the owners of Hobby Lobby would know that if they understood anything about biology, or you know, prefixes and root words. Generally speaking, the offending types of birth control work via stopping/slowing ovulation or preventing sperm from getting to the egg. That would be the contra part. So the idea that women are losing out on part of their health care based on people’s misunderstanding of not only pregnancy itself but also the process by which women become pregnant is somewhere past the point of insanity. The owners of Hobby Lobby have so thoroughly wrapped up their ignorance with religion that the legal definition of pregnancy apparently had no meaning within the context of this case. Not actual pregnancy or actual abortion mind you, but their beliefs about both.

I know this sounds odd to some, but before you can have an abortion you have to actually be pregnant. Thanks Science! So even if one assumes that the Bible is clearly and unequivocally against abortion (which is highly dubious), there should be no religious objection to contraception. Or at least if they’re fine with most contraception, they should be equally fine with the Plan B pill and intrauterine devices. Unsurprisingly, it’s very difficult to find passages in the Bible that deal with slowing ovulation or copper ions in the uterus making it an inhospitable environment for sperm. However, as long as your belief is sincere, no matter how contrary to the vast sums of actual medical knowledge that anyone can possess with a solid internet connection and a search engine, you too can deny women health care.

Despite the court trying to make this a narrow ruling, the flood gates have now been opened.  The weakness of the case rests on the fact that court is treating women’s health care differently than any other type of health care. There’s no way in hell that this law will only be narrowly confined to four types of contraception to which Hobby Lobby objects.  The unintended consequences are potentially quite vast. Again we’re not dealing with the actual medical science. We’re not even dealing with scripture. We’re dealing with people’s belief systems in regards to what happens in medicine or what they believe is supposed to happen. The short-sightedness of the ruling wasn’t at all lost in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s scathing, awesome dissent:

…how does the Court divine which religious beliefs are worthy of accommodation, and which are not? Isn’t the Court disarmed from making such a judgment given its recognition that “courts must not presume to determine . . . the plausibility of a religious claim”?

And speaking of flood gates Justice Ginsberg continues:

Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?

Justice Ginsberg could have gone on and on. But she raises some very valid points. The court has tried to make women’s health separate from other types of health care. They are trying to rule narrowly about several types of contraception that the Green family believes, rather ignorantly, causes abortion. But there’s no reason why all contraception couldn’t be included in another case. In fact, we needn’t stay in the realm of health care at all. Could you fire someone for not being sufficiently Christian? Why not. Could a corporation owned by Islamic fundamentalists refuse to give health care to infidels? Sure thing. By this reasoning couldn’t a corporation exempt itself from pretty much any law outside of taxation? This is looking less like flood gates being opened and more like Pandora’s Box.

Thought experiment time, peasants. You’re a white, blue-collar worker bringing in a modest salary with benefits as frontline staff at a nondescript, privately held box store in a mid-sized urban area in the U.S. Your family is covered by your insurance. You have a 15-year-old son with behavioral concerns who has just been prescribed antidepressants, sticker price is $200 / month. If the drug is covered, with co-pays, this could go down to $40 / month, but SURPRISE! You are now informed that your company’s CEO is a Scientologist, and if you want these forbidden drugs under medical advice for your own family, you’re coming out of pocket. Not because the drugs are unsafe, not because of any reason based on evidence or logic — literally because of the particular brand of smoke and mirrors currently occupying the headspace of your company’s fearless leader. How does this situation make you feel?

Seriously, imagine if this case actually dealt with some of the crazier examples listed above. We’d all be absolutely outraged if a particular race, ethnicity or religious group were being denied any part of their health care because their bosses had some supposed religious conviction against it. And rightfully so. Somehow, though, when’s it’s women’s bodies, when’s its women’s health, it all becomes magically OK. Well, there aren’t talking about all contraception, just these few over here. What’s the big deal? Somehow nothing is beyond the pale when it comes to women. Looks like the War Against Women is the war that just won’t end.

The Supreme Court just went out of their way to set a brand new precedent. Apparently, as long as your religious convictions have something to do with women’s bodies, you’ll have the ear of the majority of court. Ladies, if you expect to have any rights, I suggest you incorporate.








Categories: Politics Fix

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3 replies

  1. This was indeed done to set a precedent. I doubt if the involvement of women’s issues was more than a convenience, since as you said, if it’s done to women it magically becomes OK. Given the pattern of what little legislation that has been passed lately, this is a way to expand corporate power. In the future, look for an even more blatant form of the argument “We need to give them something to keep them in America, since our labor cost is so high.” Pure logic says this makes sense. If you ask a business to pay 4 times the cost for even one input, they will want something else to tip their opportunity cost calculation in your favor. Then again, pure logic gives us fun little things like the prisoner’s dilemma and the tragedy of the commons, both are based on similar “optimized risk management” calculations. Things like this are precisely why we evolved to be irrational beings. For my part, I say that developing nations can have these multinational corporations. This would force us to rebuild from the ground up, which frankly we probably need to do anyway. This would be immensely painful, of course, but honestly…… meh.

    • This court has been expanding corporate power at what seems to be a breakneck pace. The entire purpose of incorporating is to shield yourself from personal liability should the business go under. It’s not so you can exercise some religious view on your employees. The court is trending toward ridiculousness with rulings like these. Becasue when it’s Native Americans wanting a religious exemption so they can use peyote as their religion perscribes, Scalia had en entire different tune to sing:

      We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate,

      And furthermore, it they did give this exemption it would:

      “open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” ranging from compulsory military service, the payment of taxes, manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, traffic laws, minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.

      “The First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty does not require this

      The more I think about the ruling the more it reads like the Catholic men on the court (The five who voted in favor) basically agreeing with Hobby lobby on religious grounds not on legal ones. How Scalia, who wrote the majority opnion in the Native American peyote case, can contort his legal reasoning so it matches his religious/moral convictions is breathtaking. Drugs = bad so no religious exemption for you. Or contraception = bad so yes religious exemption.

      • Yes. The distinction I’m seeing here is between rule of law, which is neutral, and agenda, which is aggressive. Think of it in terms of countries. An aggressive country will pretty much steamroll a neutral one, if it wants to. It takes a lot of energy and dedication for neutral rule of law to rival the force of aggressive agenda-driven initiatives, regardless of their content. A lot of the necessary energy and dedication is currently tied up in party loyalties, which is a trap. I think it was Jefferson who said that the tree of liberty must be occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants, but really that represents a failure on the part of all involved. A truly free culture has to put in constant work to keep opposing interests in balance, even when the pantry is well stocked. Only if that is not done will blood come into it, and again that is a failure. A lot of paradigms are shifting right now, which is good. We’re not yet a nation of fools, despite the marketing blitz in favor of that outcome. The measure of a person, and a culture, is how it responds to pressure. While our tolerance for pressure has gotten annoyingly high, I still think we’ll find a good response when we decide to give one.

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