This morning, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that private employers can refuse to provide their employees birth control on religious grounds. Previously, only religious organizations got to opt out.
What’s that mean? One of the big benefits of Obamacare is that it requires employers to offer health insurance that includes birth control — for free. The two companies in the case, Hobby Lobby (a craft store based in Oklahoma) and Conestoga Wood (they make cabinets), are both owned by Christian families. They argued that since their religion prohibits birth control, the birth-control mandate violates their constitutionally protected rights. And, they just won.
Yes, that’s bad news. There are 28,000 people who work at Hobby Lobby who are now at risk of losing affordable contraception and dozens more similar cases in the pipeline. Justice Sotomayor, who authored the dissenting opinion, writes the ruling could deny thousands of women their right to affordable birth control.
For now, the ruling’s effects are narrow. Justice Alito, the opinion’s author, said that employees could still get birth control via a loophole that’s already in place for religious non-profits (like church-run charities or colleges).
Even if that works, it’s still bad news. The case here only pertains to a couple kinds of birth control — like IUDs and the morning-after pill — that Hobby Lobby says are essentially abortion, since they could disrupt a fertilized egg. (For the record: Science says that’s not how an IUD works).
And, this is just the beginning. There are dozens of similar cases still working their way through the lower courts. Which means even if you’re not currently employed by Mennonite carpenters, there are sure to be more challenges to a wider range of employer-provided birth control. Like, say, the pill. Or vaccines. Since, after all, there are religious people out there, too, who find them sinful.
Of course, the Court’s three women all voted against the ruling.