Today, the Hobby Lobby birth control case will be heard at the United States Supreme Court. For those of you who are new to this blog, the Hobby Lobby case involves the corporate craft store Hobby Lobby suing the federal government over Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers to provide health insurance to their workers, and that this health insurance must include access to birth control. However, Hobby Lobby’s conservative Christian owners do not want to provide health insurance that includes access to birth control, and they’re claiming that providing access to birth control violates of their religion freedoms.
The pro-choice community has already identified two key problems with this argument. 1) Hobby Lobby is a private company, not a religious institution. As such, it does not qualify for any type of religious exemption. Furthermore, while the owners of Hobby Lobby may choose to have insurance policies for themselves and their families that do not include birth control, they have no right to make that choice on behalf of their employees. And 2), Hobby Lobby is claiming that birth control use goes against its views about sexuality and morality, but is refusing to acknowledge the simple fact that birth control is, in fact, used for a wide range of medical issues aside from preventing pregnancy.
However, there’s a third point against Hobby Lobby which hasn’t been brought up as vocally as those first two: it’s the potential domino effect that a SCOTUS ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could have. Let’s be clear: the Hobby Lobby case, despite the headlines, is not just about birth control or even about women’s health. There’s already been talk about the potential havoc this court case could wreak on the LGBT community. Given recent attempts by Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country to introduce bills that allow for discrimination against gay people, it isn’t hard to imagine companies run by dominant religious groups using a SCOTUS ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby as a justification to fire or deny health insurance to openly gay or trans* employees.
And it isn’t just the gay community that would be threatened by this ethical slippery slope. Imagine a scenario where an employer decided that none of his or her employees could have health insurance that provided for blood transfusions or organ donations because the employer opposed them on religious grounds. Or a single mother being denied health insurance because her employer has a religious objection to unmarried women having children. We could even see companies or sets of companies decide they don’t want to provide vaccinations to workers, which would be a public health nightmare.
The danger of this case is that it is coming before one of the most pro-business Supreme Courts in the last half century. This is why it is so critical that we know what effect SCOTUS ruling with Hobby Lobby could have on all Americans. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby is not just about women. The healthcare of millions of Americans will be put at risk if companies are allowed to use religion as a justification to alter the health insurance they provide their employees.