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Hobby Lobby Ruling: Bigger Than Birth Control

photoWEST LONG BRANCH, NJ-  Hobby Lobby has become a household name, and it has nothing to do with the wide array of crafting supplies offered in their stores.  The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the Burwell vs Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. suit, announcing on June 30 that the company would no longer be required to cover birth control under its insurance plan for its employees.
This ruling established a precedent that a for-profit company can deny female employees birth control covered by insurance if it conflicts with its religious beliefs, despite Obamacare’s provision that birth control is to be covered by insurance plans.  This precedent was formally only available to non-profit or religious institutions.  The company is, however, still providing male employees with insurance that covers Viagra and vasectomies.
The impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling goes far beyond the women employed by Hobby lobby.  The average cost of birth control for an uninsured woman is anywhere between $15-70 per month, depending on the brand and type of contraception being used, according to Planned Parenthood.  In a statement released in regard to the ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated, “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning minimum wage.”
For the nearly 99.1 percent of sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44 who have used contraception, the cost of birth control adds up quickly; so much so that in some cases it no longer becomes a viable option.  By providing birth control coverage under insurance plans, more women are allotted the opportunity to practice safe sex and take advantage of the numerous benefits that birth control has to offer women.
The prevention of unplanned pregnancies is only one of the many uses for birth control.  Birth control is often used to reduce symptoms of PMS and decrease the severity of menstruation.  Regularly taking oral contraceptives also reduces a woman’s risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer by more than 70 percent.  In fact, taking an oral contraceptive for one to five years can reduce risk by up to 40 percent.  Additionally, the pill is known help with clear skin, as it reduces the level of testosterone in a woman’s body, thus reducing breakouts.
By allowing Hobby Lobby to prevent its female employees from gaining access to birth control the Supreme Court has set the precedent for other companies to deny their employees access to contraception in the name of religion.  Working women are now at risk of losing affordable access to birth control based on the religious views of their employer, and many women are not taking this fact lightly.  Huff Post Women contributor and feminist filmmaker Elizabeth Buffone referred to the ruling as an “oppressive, antiquated decision.”  In her article, Buffone states, “By allowing corporations to decide whether they will provide comprehensive birth control to women based on their religious beliefs, the members of the United States Supreme Court [are] sending a larger message to women and girls not only the United States but around the globe. This message is: girls, you are not enough and you are not in control.”
Monmouth University Professor Deanna Shoemaker offered insight on the ruling, stating, “The Hobby Lobby ruling has ominous implications for women and minorities because it favors the rights of ideologically run corporations over people’s basic reproductive rights. All women should have equal access to healthcare coverage for contraception, regardless of where they work, and the Supreme Court has seriously undermined that basic right. This ruling has economic consequences for women and minorities, who on average earn less than white men in the U.S., because contraception isn’t cheap, jobs are hard to come by, and the cost of raising children is high. This ruling seems to represent a backlash against the Affordable Healthcare Act and women’s reproductive rights.”
While the implications of this ruling remain to be seen, it is without question that the Hobby Lobby ruling will face opposition.  A precedent has been set, and what that means for women and minorities has many people incredibly concerned.  As stated by Professor Shoemaker in regard to the future after Hobby Lobby, “When we treat corporations as people, real people will suffer.”
For more information regarding the Hobby Lobby ruling, the official court documents detailing case are available to the public.