KATIE ZERR: Supreme Court’s decision is wrong


A divided Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled 5-4 on Monday that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell (Burwell is the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires for-profit companies to cover contraception in their health plans) the court ruled that “closely held” corporations cannot be required to cover contraception for their employees if doing so would contradict religious beliefs. The owners of those companies believe that those types of birth control are forms of abortion because they could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, despite the general scientific consensus that the contraceptives are not equivalent to abortion.

The court ruled the Obama administration has failed to show that the contraception mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act is the “least restrictive means of advancing its interest” in providing birth control at no cost to women.

What it really means is that those with a strong religious conviction are above the law. The five justices who voted in favor of the plaintiffs are naive if they think this will not open the door to more claims against providing services in the name of religion.

In essence, the conservative majority of SCOTUS voted that the religious beliefs of a company’s employees are overruled by the religious beliefs of the company’s owners.

Birth control is not just birth control. The use of the medication has benefits to females that are beyond the scope of birth control. This ruling will keep millions of women from receiving the health benefits it provides.

In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute estimated that about 14 percent of birth control users rely on birth control exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes.

In 2011, 1.5 million women used birth control to help with medical issues such as ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and endometrial cancer.

Guttmacher also found that more than 58 percent of all birth control users cite other medical issues in addition to pregnancy prevention, listing reasons such as reducing cramps or menstrual pain, preventing migraines and other menstruation side effects, and treating acne.

Birth control helps the 5 million American women who battle polycystic ovary syndrome. They have irregular menstrual cycles that can last for months, iron deficiencies, anemia and infertility. It can be debilitated to some women, who are crippled by the pain of cramping. For those who are not familiar with that kind of pain, it is equivalent to the cramps that knocked LeBron James, the best player in basketball, out of NBA finals game, only on the inside where no massage or liquid therapy relieves the pain.

Hobby Lobby’s objection to covering the cost of birth control is that women take pills that prevent ovaries from releasing an egg that could be fertilized after unprotected sex.

The question being raised now is why Hobby Lobby doesn’t object to covering the cost of its male employees’ vasectomies.

Does not a vasectomy prevent the released egg from becoming fertilized? If interruption of contraception is against their religious beliefs, then vasectomies should also be on the chopping block.

Also, if their plan is to stop women from using birth control to keep them getting pregnant, then shouldn’t they drop the coverage that helps male employees obtain erectile dysfunction treatments?  It would lower the chances of their unprotected females employees dealing with unwanted pregnancies and would also help with the hypocritical end of their religious stance.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion on the ruling. In it she states: “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” She said she feared that with its decision, the court had “ventured into a minefield.”

One wonders if the price of lost employee loyalty and lost workdays because of certain maladies will be worth it to the corporations who brought the suit.

One also has to wonder what the ramifications of  letting personal or political beliefs influence legal decisions will mean to this country in the future.

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