Corporate Rights Trump Women’s Rights

Jun 30th, 2014 | By | Category: Family Planning

By Suzanne York,

[image credit:]

In this increasingly polarized country with a deeply partisan Congress, a divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of corporate rights (aka corporate “personhood”) over a woman’s right to use the contraception of her choice.

In the long-anticipated outcome of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that family-owned corporations are not required to provide health coverage for contraceptives if they object on religious grounds.

Unsurprisingly, the Court’s three female justices were in the minority opinion.

Yes to Corporations, No to Women

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “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.”

Justice Ginsburg hit the nail on the head. This Supreme Court has been ruling increasingly in favor of corporations over American citizens. Citizens United blew open the doors to corporate money in politics by allowing unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, to the detriment of democracy (followed by its McCutcheon ruling).  Now it’s doing the same to women’s rights and health under the guise of religious freedom.  Hobby Lobby sells arts and crafts; it is not a religious institution.

In the majority opinion, the justices, like many of their conservative brethren, dismiss science.  Hobby Lobby objected to four methods of contraception that the company owners believe essentially cause abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall or causing an already implanted egg to fail to thrive.

But, reported Mother Jones, according to the Food and Drug Administration, all four of the contraceptive methods Hobby Lobby objects to—Plan B, Ella, and two intrauterine devices—do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus, which the owners of Hobby Lobby consider abortion. Instead, these methods prevent fertilization.

Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, paints a grim picture of what this ruling means for women, here in the U.S. and overseas:

The United States has historically been a leader in international family planning. Today’s ruling sends a signal to the rest of the world that we are champions in name only. How can we advance the rights of women abroad when we cannot protect American women’s rights at home? The Supreme Court decision is bad for women’s health here and abroad, bad for women’s rights everywhere, and destructive to this country’s reputation as a global leader.

Protestors at the Supreme Court in early 2014 [photo credit:]

Reaction from the White House

The Obama Administration said the court’s decision “jeopardizes the health of women employed by these companies” and added that “women should make personal health care decisions for themselves, rather than their bosses deciding for them.”

The White House urged Congress to act quickly to find ways to make all contraceptives available to the companies affected by the court’s decision.

Too Many Steps Backwards on Women’s Rights

The bottom line is that the Supreme Court is expanding the definition of corporate personhood by granting religious beliefs to for-profit companies.  In the meantime, access to affordable contraception just got more difficult for women in a time when the obstacles to voluntary family planning and reproductive health care are increasing in America.

To quote Justice Ginsburg once again: “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”

If you want to take action, go here to “Join the dissent, and send a message to lawmakers, employers, and the Supreme Court: our medical decisions belong to us, not our bosses.”


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.

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