By Samantha Reid
As of late March, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive case.
For the uninitiated, the owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores are arguing against the Obamacare mandate for birth control coverage. The company argues that specific forms of birth control –– intrauterine devices and Plan B pills –– cause abortions, and that providing them goes against their religious beliefs.
The debate, fundamentally, comes down to science versus religion. Science has debunked the Hobby Lobby system of belief, proving once and for all that these types of birth control are not abortive. So why does the debate rage on?
Religious nonprofits are exempt from the mandate, but Hobby Lobby doesn’t fall under that distinction. Precedent seems to fall in favor of the employees seeking birth control.
According to NPR, “The court has never found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law.”
The Justice Department makes a strong argument. If corporations can claim religious freedom to get around laws, it’s a slippery slope from there. If the precedent is set with this case, it could eventually lead to companies claiming immunizations infringe on their belief systems.
Another important point made by the government is in respect to the separation between religion and the workplace. There are more than 13,000 employees at Hobby Lobby, all with differing religious and political beliefs. While some may agree with the owners, all should not be required to, and those who don’t shouldn’t lose their access to contraception.
While religious beliefs should be respected, denial of scientific fact should not be a strong enough basis to withhold affordable birth control from thousands of women. For working-class Americans, like many of the hourly wage earners at Hobby Lobby, cost is an undeniably important factor in the ability to secure contraception. Without insurance coverage, an intrauterine device can cost as much as $600.
If the court does side with Hobby Lobby on this decision, it sets a powerful precedent of corporations’ rights over the rights of women.
“I absolutely respect anyone’s right to fight for their religious beliefs,” senior Jenny Horton said. “But what I cannot deal with is when religion and state conflict and religious ideals begin to impose on the free will of all individuals.”
Senior LeAnna McGovern, who self-identifies as a Christian, agreed with Horton’s view.
“I do not believe that in any way, shape or form should a fundamental Christian organization deny the right of a woman to take [contraceptives],” McGovern said.
On top of the basic right to prevent pregnancy, McGovern cites health concerns as an additional reason women need access to these types of medication. She suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome and credits birth control with improving her health.
“My doctor put me on birth control because the estrogen in the pill [helps] regulate my hormones and decrease the size of the cysts in my ovaries, reducing the pain and swelling,” McGovern said. “If I had not been put on this specific birth control, my ovary [could] have burst, and I would not be able to have children in the future.”
While IUDs, the contraceptive at hand in this case, work differently than the pill, they similarly offer health benefits that should not be withheld from women, even on religious grounds. According to the New York Times, Mirena, one type of IUD, is considered the most effective way to treat a menstrual condition called menorrhagia. In addition, IUDs can potentially protect against endometrial cancer.
It was also recently revealed that Hobby Lobby invests in companies that produce contraceptive products. If they can make a profit from contraception, should they not also follow the law and provide these products to their employees?
“It’s plain hypocrisy,” said Horton. “If [Hobby Lobby] is going to go to the extremes they already have to stop spending on their employees’ access to contraception, then they should not be [investing] their money anywhere else with such causes.”
Only time will tell how the Supreme Court will rule in this case, but the debate between rights of the corporation and rights of the individual will undoubtedly continue.
For the sake of women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies, and have reasonable means to access birth control if they so choose, many hope the Supreme Court holds the individual’s rights paramount.