Corporations are not only people, they are people who can practice a religious faith.
On Monday, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby concluded that chief executive officers of major corporations can deny health insurance coverage for birth control based on their own personal beliefs. The decision sent shockwaves through feminist and progressive America, while others praised the Supreme Court for its support of “religious freedom.”
Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green said they would continue to provide 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under the mandate.
As a consequence of this decision, if someone works for certain types of for-profit companies, they no longer have to cover the cost of any contraception they deem a violation of their religious beliefs. Some corporations can try and refuse coverage for other, non-contraceptive medications and procedures citing religious beliefs, and it could depress use of IUDs at certain privately held corporations that might consider it another form of emergency contraception.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and how lower courts deemed it irrelevant to the Hobby Lobby case.
“Some lower court judges have suggested that RFRA does not protect for-profit corporations because the purpose of such corporations is simply to make money,” wrote Alito. “This argument flies in the face of modern corporate law …
“While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so,” continued Alito. “For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives.”
Notably, all three female Supreme Court justices dissented, arguing that the ruling violates women’s rights. In a scathing 35-page opinion piece, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the Hobby Lobby case “a decision of startling breadth” and said the court had “ventured into a minefield.” Ginsburg then noted how before Monday, religious exemptions weren’t extended into the “commercial, profit-making world.”
“The reason why is hardly obscure,” wrote Ginsburg. “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community. Indeed, by law, no religion-based criterion can restrict the work force of for-profit corporations …
“The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the court’s attention. One can only wonder why the court shuts this key difference from sight,” said Ginsburg.
The decision made waves locally as well with current and former elected officials, who have weighed in on the subject.
“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is an injustice for all women,” New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said in a statement. “The belief that your employer has the right to determine your reproductive health needs is antiquated and beyond reproach. The Supreme Court has signaled that we are entering a new war on women where a person’s access to birth control is subject to the whims of their employer. New York City must not and will not accept this flawed approach to reproductive health.”
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a blow to women’s access to health care,” said former New York City Comptroller and current state Senate candidate John Liu in a statement. “This abhorrent ruling is a clear reminder that whether it’s in Washington or Albany, we need true Democrats to stand up to extremist political forces. Private health care decisions should be made between a woman, her family and her doctor—not by activist employers with a political agenda.”
But one group of people remain happy about the case: conservative Christians.
“Hobby Lobby took a bold step for all Christian-owned businesses in America and emerged victorious,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, in a statement. “From the start, this case was about whether the government could blatantly ignore the constitutionally protected right to the free exercise of religion and force people of faith to violate their deeply held religious convictions.
“The government requirement that businesses provide contraception coverage never had a constitutional leg to stand on, and yet the government continued to claim power it doesn’t have and to target people of faith,” continued Wildmon. “Today’s decision confirms what’s been true all along: Business owners do not need to check their faith at their company doors.”
Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer, said the decision “reaffirmed our essential constitutional rights.”
“Corporations do have the right to pursue policies that are aligned with their religious views and are once again protected from the forced adoption of practices that violate their conscience,” said Stone.
The subject line in an email from Alliance Defending Freedom was named “U.S. Supreme Court rules against Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate.” The birth control pill doesn’t induce abortion.