Top Court attacks women
WW photo: Greg Butterfield
By Sue Davis on July 1, 2014
The Supreme Court has done it again. It bestowed new rights on corporations. All a corporation has to do these days is plead for a new interpretation of a law and — abracadabra — the court waves its magic wand over the issue and the wish is granted.
In the case of Hobby Lobby Stores’ objection to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the court bent itself into a pretzel in the 5-4 decision issued June 30. The five conservative male justices granted religious rights to a for-profit corporation that will trump the health care choices of their women employees or designated beneficiaries.
Now not only are corporations “persons,” as the same five justices ruled in the Citizen United case in 2010, but they have religious rights. Rights that discriminate against the health care needs of women workers. But granting even “closely held” religious rights to corporations is in line with the majority’s May 5 ruling that OK’d prayers at public meetings.
In a 35-page dissent that bristled with sarcasm — Huffington Post called it “scathing” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor, sliced and diced the majority’s many contortions and distortions. Methodically dissecting the majority’s illogic when measuring Hobby Lobby’s case against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, she noted that, according to the RFRA, all religious beliefs must not “significantly impinge on the interests of third parties.”
She drove the point home when she asserted: “No tradition, and no prior decision under RFRA, allows a religious-based exemption when the accommodation would be harmful to others — here, the very persons the contraceptive coverage requirement was designed to protect.”
The irony is that of the four types of contraception that the corporation objected to paying for — because it claimed they cause abortions — two of them, Plan B and the morning-after pill called Ella, had been in its employees’ health care package for years. A March 21 article in Mother Jones cut to the chase on that issue: “Labels on these products have been updated in Europe to reflect the science, and the Catholic Church in Germany dropped its opposition to local Catholic hospitals providing emergency contraception to rape victims after reviewing the evidence.”
The other two forms of birth control are intrauterine devices, which a number of studies have shown do not cause abortions. But all the justices ignored the scientific evidence or did not elect to question it. Predictably, the only medical groups supporting the claim that morning-after pills and IUDs cause abortions are the Christian Medical Association and the Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
This whole issue could have been avoided had the health care bill set up a single-payer system like Medicare. But because the Obama administration bowed to the pay-for-service medical establishment and the giant insurance companies, we’ve got a patchwork quilt of health care delivery that is paid for — and now controlled — by corporations. About 55 percent of workers get health care through their jobs.
As Monica Moorehead stated in a press release announcing a day-of demonstration called by the International Working Women’s Day Coalition in New York City, “This decision exposes why health care should be provided across the board so that all people have equal access to care. We know this decision will fall the heaviest on poor working women, disproportionately women of color, immigrants, youth, lesbians and transwomen, as well as women living in rural areas. That’s why we oppose it.”
In their decision the majority attempted to cover their behinds by stating that it “should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.” However, Ginsburg predicted the decision would introduce “havoc.”
But havoc is a double-edged sword. This ruling further exposes the unelected, undemocratic Supreme Court as an arm of the capitalist state that serves the corporations rather than the welfare of the masses of hard-working people. It should be neither revered nor obeyed.
The fightback on this issue is only beginning.