The Hobby Lobby Decision
It’s July 2014, and the U.S. is debating access to birth control. Again. Our current debate revolves around the Supreme Court ruling yesterday in the Hobby Lobby case. The owners of Hobby Lobby believe that some contraceptives (morning-after pills and IUDs) cause abortion. That they believe is all that matters, in the opinion of SCOTUS; medical science has no role here. These contraceptives actually prevent pregnancy, hence they are called “contraceptives.”
Justice Alito assures us that employers’ ability to deny their employees insurance coverage of specific medical services applies only to birth control; not to any other intervention. Why is limiting access to birth control acceptable, but access to vaccines or blood transfusions or any other life-saving medical intervention not on the table? Because this particular case is an objection to specific birth control. Justice Ginsburg points out that corporations are free to bring cases of other medical services that conflict with their religious beliefs. At this point, there is really no reason to believe we won’t see more cases in the near future.
More than 50 years after the birth of The Pill, contraceptives still seem to be a mystery. One of the more shocking statistics circulating in the wake of Hobby Lobby is that 49% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. That sounds high to me. In our modern age, where women have achieved equality (for the most part), and we have effective contraceptive technology, still half of all pregnancies are unplanned.
What I find particularly disturbing is that discussion about the Hobby Lobby decision keeps turning to “birth control is also used for…” arguments. Do we need to rationalize access to birth control by emphasizing that these interventions are also used to treat other woman-specific conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis? Why has it become unacceptable for women to want to control their reproduction?