Written by Anthony Capote
Last month The Supreme Court made a controversial decision in the case of Burwell v Hobby Lobby. Now, most people (especially if you don’t live in the American Midwest) only know of Hobby Lobby as the arts and crafts store that seems like the K-Mart version of a Michael’s. While that is an accurate understanding of the company, Hobby Lobby has recently made national news by becoming the focus of a Supreme Court ruling that companies are not required to provide contraceptive services to its employees as part of an insurance plan.
Hobby Lobby claimed before the Court that for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require corporations to provide contraceptives that work after an egg has already been fertilized by a sperm, such as Plan B or Ella, infringes upon their right to exercise their religious beliefs. The Hobby Lobby board members are devout Christians and believe that life begins at the moment of conception. As a result of these beliefs, Hobby Lobby argued that if the HHS forced them to supply their employees with free access to medicines that end a life after the possible moment of conception would be a violation of their religious freedom. There have been previous cases on this subject matter involving the Conestoga Wood Specialties Company. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 protected the rights of persons to exercise their religion in any way so long as it doesn’t inhibit the religious rights of other people.
Even though the Tenth Circuit accepted Hobby Lobby’s case, the opposition stated that it is impossible for corporations to exercise religion. The Constitution, of course, bears no mention of corporations as persons or of the right for religion to burden the freedoms of other people.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that Hobby Lobby Corporation was a person and that it had the ability to engage in religious activities and as a result it would be unconstitutional to hinder them from practicing Christian morals. This, of course, did not come without controversy and has many Americans split on the issue.
Caitlin Philbrick, a sociology student at Manhattan College said of the case “I feel as though the Supreme Court really dropped the ball here. The idea that those who hold positions of authority over the United States would choose to side with a religious group over female reproductive rights is astounding.” She went on to say that it is “interesting that those on the Supreme Court in favor of Hobby Lobby are all male and happened to be appointed by Republicans (Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts).” When asked how comfortable she would feel if her employer denied access to basic contraceptive services Philbrick said “I would be disheartened. I could never comfortably work for an employer who does not recognize essential family planning services.” Philbrick also expressed her belief that “the war on women is far from over.”
While many people are enraged by the decision, a large number of Christian groups throughout the country are applauding Hobby Lobby for its commitment to “pro-life” policies. It seems that in the eyes of the Supreme Court, the reproductive health and right of women to exercise basic family planning methods are less important than the “religious views” of a corporation which is a non-human entity. Luckily for women in the United States, Plan B is now offered over the counter and a less expensive generic version is soon to follow. This means that there is still affordable access to emergency contraception whenever it is needed, and you don’t need Hobby Lobby’s permission to get it.