On the not-so-narrow scope of the Hobby Lobby ruling

Dear Dad,

When I heard about the Supreme Court crafting their Hobby Lobby response narrowly, I was only mildly relieved. You say that the decision was moderate, that it only applies to privately held companies. This is false.

First, Dad, the decision applies to “closely held” companies, or companies controlled by a family or small group of people. That’s 90 percent of the companies in the U.S.

But that’s not what worries me so much as the fact that these companies can be granted exemptions on grounds of “sincerely held” religious beliefs. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, the medical effects could be far reaching:

Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.

And then there’s the fact that this ruling could be used to justify hiring discrimination. Sure, the justices thought to clarify that this ruling could not apply to matters of racial discrimination, which was some excellent foresight, but they didn’t talk about other prejudices. What about, for instance, LGBT individuals? They were conveniently left unprotected, and in fact several groups have already asked Obama to issue a religious exemption for his upcoming executive order banning gender or sexual orientation discrimination in hiring by federal contractors.

Justice Ginsburg said it best when she said the Supreme Court had wandered into a minefield, Dad. I fear we’re just seeing the start.

Lookin’ out,

Victoria

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On Hobby Lobby’s bitter pill

Dear Dad,

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about this Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. When I heard that the justices had ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and their anti-birth control stance, I’ll admit I was disappointed. And while the far-reaching legal and social ramifications have been discussed in length elsewhere, I want to focus in on the issue of birth control itself, and Hobby Lobby’s willful misunderstanding of how birth control works.

I know you’re familiar with how useful birth control is already, Dad, thanks mostly to me. Remember how I was in excruciating pain every month, woke in the middle of the night with abdominal and thigh cramps, had to miss school and church? I remember one night you got up for a snack, and I, laying awake, crying quietly in bed, heard you walk down the hall. I walked into the kitchen, clutching my stomach and moaning. Looking back, I think I probably gave you a huge shock. But when I explained that I had miserable menstrual cramps, you sat up with me for an hour, comforting me as I cried and tried to twist my body in any position that would lessen the pain.

That all changed when Mom took me to her OB/GYN and got me on the pill, Dad. Do you remember? Maybe not. After all, crying is a lot more conspicuous than not crying.

Birth control has changed my life. Now, I don’t have to miss school or work. I just take one pill every evening and my life is undisturbed by my fussy uterus.

A photo of multiple birth control pills in pinks, whites and oranges.

Birth control, such as the pill, has dramatically improved my quality of life.

What’s so frustrating about the Hobby Lobby decision is that the Supreme Court (at least, the majority, conveniently all men) put their stamp of approval on Hobby Lobby refusing to fully comprehend what birth control is and how it works. The people who own Hobby Lobby believe morning after pills and intrauterine devices cause abortions, which is obviously false to anyone who bothers to understand how birth control works (shout-out to my ninth-grade health teacher for bringing in a sex ed expert to explain this!). For the record, Plan B and other morning after pills kick start a menstrual cycle, causing the uterus to shed its lining so that the person who took Plan B is not fertile. Basically, if there’s an egg in there, it gets flushed out before the sperm can get to it. An IUD, much like the pill, releases hormones into the carrier, regulating their hormones and simulating pregnancy so that they are not fertile. It’s not that much different from my nightly pill.

In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control also helps regulate hormones, like my own. They help prevent painful periods, clear up skin, reduce emotional symptoms of PMS and protect women from endometriosis, an incredibly painful and extremely dangerous medical condition where the uterine lining grows on the outside of the uterus.

When Hobby Lobby narrows birth control down to its relationship to baby production, what they are really doing is reducing women to their ability to produce babies, Dad. Birth control provides myriad benefits to women, including preventing motherhood, which is a lifelong condition.

I’m lucky, because California requires most insurers to offer birth control coverage, with copays. I understand, however, how much of a burden it could be to a woman working a minimum wage job to afford birth control, as one month I switched pharmacies and saw my expenses jump from $8 to $38 for my little packet of pills. Luckily, I had a little extra money that month, but had it been a month where I barely scraped by with $5 in my bank account, I know I wouldn’t have been able to afford that expense.

I’m a little apprehensive as to how this ruling is going to play out, Dad. I think it will be a while before we see the far-reaching effects of Hobby Lobby’s win. And I have a feeling this will have a very negative effect on the lives of many women, Hobby Lobby employees and those who work for similar companies.

Until later,

Victoria