The feeling is familiar. A kind of uncertain anxiety in the pit of the stomach. A nervous looking, and looking again, knowing that the answer, positive or negative, could appear at any moment. The buzz of possibilities like a swarm of flies that make it hard to see straight. Am I supposed to wait two minutes or three? When will I know?
As I sat there refreshing my browser again and again, waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court had decided in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive coverage case, for some reason it reminded me of taking a pregnancy test. I was waiting, on pins and needles, for life-altering news that felt both deeply personal and to an extent beyond my control.
The more I think about it, the more the connection makes a kind of strange sense. After all, when pregnancy is a possibility—intended or not—it inspires a strange mix of hope and dread, fear and uncertainly. Regardless of your circumstances, or what you ultimately decide, it makes you think about your future.
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When I saw that the decision was bad—that a bare majority of justices sided with Hobby Lobby—my heart sank. I’m still in shock. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the thought that the Supreme Court would actually invite discrimination and interference from bosses into the personal health decisions of women.
When I think about the future and what this case might mean, I am deeply concerned. I’m not a mother yet—thanks to my ability to access contraception for over a decade!—but I’d like to have kids in the not too distant future. It’s shocking that I might have to explain to those kids that, yes, contraception is an important part of health care, but no, you might not be able to get it if your boss doesn’t like the method you choose.
Like any policy or decision that makes health care less affordable, and therefore harder to get, this decision will undoubtedly fall hardest on those already struggling to get the care they need: young women, women of color, low-income women, and those living in rural and underserved areas.
I think about two sisters I met in Texas who can only afford one birth control pill pack a month, so they each take a pill every other day. (Needless to say, this is not an effective method to prevent unintended pregnancy.) I think about women struggling to pay for daycare and college tuition, who have to decide among basic necessities and who may forgo contraception in order to keep food on the family table. Anyone who fails to see the substantial burden of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for contraception out of pocket is deeply out of touch with our economy—and our communities.
To add insult to grievous injury, this decision is based on the absurd notion that a corporation has a greater right to religious liberty than an individual woman. This thinking extends the dystopian logic asserted in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which effectively equated corporations to “persons” for the purposes of First Amendment rights at the expense of the rights of actual people.
We are living in a political climate that is disturbingly dismissive of the civil rights—and indeed the humanity—of poor people, women of color, and immigrant families. Given this backdrop, the continued entrenchment of corporate “personhood” and the extension of civil rights to big business cuts deep and threatens darker days ahead.
What gives me a glimmer of hope is the knowledge that the wrongheaded Supreme Court majority is vastly outnumbered by the dissenting voices of women and families across this country. We’re sick of being bullied, singled out, and denied our human right to health care. And we’re only going to get louder and more organized with every new affront to our dignity.
In the meantime, I suppose women who are struggling to afford contraception will have to get creative if their employer decides to deny them coverage. Maybe Hobby Lobby can help us rig something up with popsicle sticks and hot glue?