This month, a for-profit arts-and-crafts chain and a for-profit custom cabinet manufacturer will go before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against a woman’s right to use her insurance plan to access contraception. If you think you’ve entered a time warp, you are correct. If you also think this sounds like bosses trying to control the private lives of their employees, you’re right again. The leaders of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation have invited themselves into their employees’ bedrooms and medicine cabinets under the guise of religious freedom, and these bosses are seriously out of line. Quite frankly, an employee’s use of contraception is none of their business.
The lawsuits by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood challenge the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which says that certain preventive health-care services like contraception must be covered without copay or cost sharing. The owners of both corporations claim that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates their businesses’ religious liberty. The only problem is—and this is the crux of what the Supreme Court will have to decide—corporations don’t have religious liberty. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are not private institutions whose primary purpose is to further their religion and values. Their purpose is to make money, period. I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand how businesses that sell do-it-yourself bracelet kits and cabinet doors can claim to be religious.
The ACA already ensures that religious rights are respected by exempting churches and houses of worship from the contraceptive requirement. The ACA also gives religiously affiliated nonprofits the option to use a third-party insurer to provide
coverage, thus ensuring that their own insurance funds don’t directly support the purchase of birth control. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood do not qualify for an exemption—and they shouldn’t. They are not religious enterprises, despite their owners’ beliefs. Hobby Lobby Founder and CEO David Green and Conestoga Wood’s owners, the Hahn family, have personal religious liberty and are certainly entitled to use or not use contraception in their private lives, but it’s ridiculous to claim that their corporations have religious liberty. These people cannot force their personal religious beliefs on their employees. Talk about a scary precedent!
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It’s important to remember that both corporations’ employees pay, through their premiums and their labor, for the health insurance they use to access contraception. This means that they are entitled to use their insurance as they and their doctors see fit. No one is forcing bosses to go to CVS and buy birth control for their employees. If we allow our bosses to start making decisions about what kind of health care we can access through our insurance, will our children still receive vaccines? Will we be able to get blood transfusions? What about tubal ligations? These are just a few of the “radical procedures” that various religions and beliefs have objected to over the years. If the Supreme Court decides in the corporations’ favor, your health-care decisions could suddenly be on your boss’ desk.
Not only do 99 percent of sexually active women use contraception at some point in their lives, for a variety of reasons, but contraceptive use is common among women of all religious denominations. An estimated 27 million women are currently benefiting from the ACA’s coverage of contraception and other preventive health services without copay or cost sharing. You might say that Green and the Hahns are a little out of touch with the needs and financial realities of American women. While the extra $15 to $50 a month for birth control may not seem like a big deal on a CEO’s salary, it can be a make-or-break issue for employees.
It’s incredible to me that these bosses have prioritized their corporations’ religious liberty, which doesn’t legally exist, over their employees’ health-care needs and over respecting their employees’ personal religious beliefs. The Supreme Court has an obligation to protect Hobby Lobby’s and Conestoga Wood’s employees and all Americans from this infringement.
Besides, we’re not so sure that these bosses are actually as concerned about religious liberty as they are about controlling women’s sexuality, as the amicus briefs filed in support of Hobby Lobby show. It’s funny, though—the company doesn’t feel the need to curtail men’s sex lives by restricting access to Viagra. I wonder if that’s covered by their insurance plans?