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This Is Not Just About Birth Control

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March 24, 2014

If the Supreme Court finds in favor of Hobby Lobby, we are not just facing the repeal of a benefit that helps over 20 million people nationwide. We are facing the potential for an erosion of civil rights protections and the beginning of an era of government sanctioned discrimination.

We can couch this debate in arguments of religious freedom or we can see this case for what it really is–discrimination wrapped in the cloak of religious belief.  If we look at the very basis of the suit it becomes apparent that this case is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of birth control and emergency contraceptives. The Green family (the owners of the  Hobby Lobby stores) has a particular objection to Emergency Contraception (EC) and IUDs. The Greens wrongly believe that these forms of contraception induce abortion by preventing the implantation of an embryo in the uterus. In fact, they don’t.  Both of these methods stop pregnancy by creating a barrier between the egg and the sperm making contact. If pregnancy were to occur ECs and IUDs would be useless in terms of terminating a pregnancy.

So if we start from the basis that this case is not, in fact, based on scientific knowledge, then we have a starting point for understanding how religion is being used to create a “slippery slope” (a favorite adage of many lawyers) that could create a situation where,  if the Supreme Court decides for Hobby Lobby, they could be ushering in an era of Supreme-Court-approved discrimination.

If employers are allowed to refuse coverage for birth control based on religious beliefs, then what else can employers refuse to do based on their religious beliefs? Some religions are against the use of blood transfusions, mental health services, and infertility treatments. So what do we say to those who rely on these medical procedures for a full and healthy life? Sorry, your corporate overlords do not believe in these safe and medically necessary procedures. Better luck next time. That is unacceptable. Religion should not be the guiding force behind medical decisions for employees. Health insurance should not be based on the religious principles of one’s employer.

It is easy to pull the focus of this case and make it all about “women’s health issues,” but in doing so we ignore the fact that this case, like many so called “women’s issues,” affects us all.

It seems unfathomable that, at this point in American history, the Supreme Court is considering legislation that could reinstate such discriminatory policies. With our country’s storied history of fighting so hard for equality for so many, one case could allow for discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. In light of this controversy, it is important for us to reexamine the role that religion has in this nation; especially at this juncture where religious freedom could possibly be used to trump the health and well-being of so many in order to accommodate the whims of a few corporate entities. At what point do we decide that enough is enough?

Tiana Patterson, Law Students for Reproductive Justice Fellow (LSRJ) at ChoiceUSA.

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