Three things to know about Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court

Matthew Weddig breaks down the three most important things you need to know about the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of Hobby Lobby.

Protesters at the Burwell v Hobby Lobby case. Photo: American Life League

Previously in America: Hobby Lobby, a store chain with Christian owners, was sued for not providing its employees with all forms of contraception through its employer-provided health insurance (apparently covered by Obamacare). Then the Supreme Court — the highest level of the American judicial system — sided in favor of Hobby Lobby.

There are a lot of seriously troubling things about this misapplication of the First Amendment. If you don’t know what’s going on or what this ruling means, it can largely be condensed into these three things:

It’s a women’s health issue and a women’s rights issue

I want you to try a quick little exercise, especially if your reaction to this news was, “I don’t understand why someone’s contraception should be paid for by their insurance.” Just replace the word “contraception” with “prescription medication”. You’re a little angrier and more confused now, right? Because contraception isn’t just about getting laid; it’s about women having access to medical coverage.

Birth control is prescribed by a doctor, and can be used for various medical reasons besides wanting to get some. Women can choose to go on the pill for PMS relief, acne control, and to even reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. Denying coverage for birth control is denying women the right to keep their own bodies healthy. Picking and choosing the ways in which women can do this is none of an employer’s business, and neither are their sex lives.

One thing that you have to keep in mind is that in the American healthcare system, most people get 100% of their health insurance through their employer. My family personally experienced the problems with this system when my dad’s employer switched its healthcare provider to one that didn’t approve of the specific allergy medications we were taking and stopped covering them. And that’s allergies. Good thing his boss’s religion didn’t find allergies blasphemous.

There is a counter-argument that women still have the right to buy birth control themselves, and it’s stupid and entitled. The only people making this counter-argument have never been women buying birth control. Being a guy, neither have I, but it’s not like it takes much effort to learn how expensive birth control is, and that’s when it’s consistently priced.

The whole thing becomes even more blatantly sexist when you notice that Hobby Lobby does, however, cover an employee’s vasectomy, because they’re fucking hypocrites.

It’s a religious rights issue

The decision basically says that an employer’s religious rights are more important than their employee’s religious rights, and this sets a horrifying legal precedent.

Let’s say you need a blood transfusion, but your employer is a Jehovah’s Witness. Let’s say you need anesthetic, or any other medicine derived from pigs, but your employer is Muslim, Jewish, or Hindi. Let’s say you need chemotherapy, but your employer believes in Cancer Jesus, God of Cancer. There is now a legal precedent saying that because of their religious beliefs, they don’t have to offer you insurance that will cover that.

These are the same examples used by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in her dissenting argument. Except for the one about Cancer Jesus. She has more class than I do. She just can’t get insured for contraception if her boss decides it offends his god.

It’s an individual rights issue

Similar to #2, this sets a nasty legal precedent that corporations have more rights than individual people.

Not just for women (although let’s be honest, mostly for women), but for everybody. This is “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” bad. This is “may the odds be ever in your favor” bad — not that killing children is about to enjoy legal acceptance in America (just in Florida). This decision is not a socially conservative victory — this is the conceptual pavement towards an Orwellian dystopia of corporate theocracy. This is a huge shift in whom the law is actively trying to protect, a shift from the law serving the people to serving the faceless expanse of big industries. This is the first amendment. It’s a big one (they even made it the first). Apparently a corporation can have a religious orientation now, and it is more important than yours.

And it’s fucking terrible

The unfortunate reality is that the only people who don’t see an issue with this decision are Christian men. Two-thirds of the Supreme Court are men. One of those men has a wife with significant roots in the anti-abortion movement. None of these things were seen as a conflict of interest, because interest is, and always has been, in the hands of the patriarchy, and the patriarchy does not give a shit.

I am male. Furthermore, I am a straight, cisgender, white, American male from an upper-middle class, Christian background. I can’t pretend that I’m not fortunate enough to enjoy basically every privilege under the sun. And there is no “but” to follow that sentence with. You can learn to recognize your privilege and listen when you just might be wrong about something, and that’s about it. But most people in positions of privilege don’t do that. The problem is that most privileged people decide that if they don’t understand why something is an issue, then it isn’t one.

There will be awful and far-reaching ramifications to this Supreme Court decision. It has created a new way of protecting the rights of the few by perverting the very first thing America wrote down to protect the rights of all. It hasn’t always worked, but we’ve made progress over time. This isn’t one of those times, and that’s the trouble you ask for when you decide the First Commandment is more important than the First Amendment.


Originally published at abstractmag.com on July 4, 2014.