Jun 30, 2014
Less Than Human: How the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision Reduces Women to Nothing More than Baby-Incubators
There’s a scene in the Broad City episode “Fattest Asses” in which Ilana Glazer blames all the ills of her world on George W. Bush: “Yes, Mr. George Bush! Whatever you say, Mr. George Bush.” And, at the risk of being that person who feels the need to explain a joke, I’ll only say that what’s supposed to be funny is that Ilana’s problems aren’t the fault of George Bush (or even Dick Cheney or Halliburton, whom she later blames), and that it’s sort of ridiculous to blame anything on a now-impotent authority figure. Which, sure. Maybe it isn’t George Bush’s fault that Ilana isn’t doing well at work (that might have more to do with the fact that she goes to work while “violently high” and wearing a “napkin as a shirt”), but after news came today about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, I reflexively said, “Thank you, Mr. George Bush! Fuck you, Mr. George Bush!”
Why was I so upset at George Bush? Well, as soon as news broke that the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case had been written by Bush-appointed justice Samuel Alito, it became pretty clear that SCOTUS had ruled in favor of a corporation’s rights over those of women. And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened. Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the evangelical Christian-owned Hobby Lobby company, which wanted the ability to refuse to offer health insurance that included contraception coverage because it goes against the Hobby Lobby owners’ religious beliefs. In a 5-4 decision, the court determined that “closely held corporations” like Hobby Lobby were under no obligation “to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act” because it “violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.”
While this decision will probably not severely impact women who work for such companies (the government has already offered to pay for the coverage in lieu of the employers through the Affordable Care Act), it sets an incredibly damaging precedent about what does and does not qualify as vital health care, as well as what qualifies as being religiously offensive. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in her dissent, “The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.” In other words, what’s to stop corporation for refusing to pay for blood transfusion or organ transplants or vaccines (all things that some religions have prohibited)? And what’s to stop some companies from refusing treatment to gay men and women who have diseases acquired through sex? This could just be the beginning of a slippery slope in which companies will use any excuse to refuse treatment for whatever bigoted rationale their religious beliefs provide!
Except, you know, it’s not. As most media outlets are quick to point out about this decision, the Supreme Court worded it in such a way that it’s clear that companies won’t be able to discriminate against gay employees, nor will they be able to use it to refuse treatment for things like blood transfusions. In fact, this decision applies is really only about contraception and other reproductive health coverage because, to some companies, contraception is tantamount to abortion. This decision, therefore, isn’t about to be abused by companies like Hobby Lobby; it’s not going to snowball into some type of situation where, you know, men will be directly affected. No, this decision is solely about influencing a woman’s right to get comprehensive health care for herself that just might include contraception. This decision is explicitly anti-women and Alito and the rest of those in the majority were very clear in expressing that. This decision codifies that the beliefs and rights of a company are more valid than a woman’s right to choose her own health care methods. This decision puts into glaring relief the disparity between how men and women are treated in this country with regards to their access to the fundamental right of healthcare. This decision reduces women’s health to be only as important as their ability to bear children; in effect, it turns women into little more than baby-incubators.
So, yes. Thank you, Mr. George Bush. Thank you for stealing that election and appointing John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the highest court in the land, ensuring that big business will be prioritized over women’s health for years to come. And although it should be obvious to everyone, it bears repeating: women’s rights are human rights, and today’s decision only made clear that for many people in this country, women are less than human. So, yeah, thank you, Mr. George Bush. Heckuva job.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen