Hobby Lobby is a chain arts and crafts company based out of Oklahoma, owned by David Green. Under the Affordable Care Act, Green was required to offer certain types of contraception to all employees of his company. He argued against the mandate, stating that offering this contraception would violate his personal religious beliefs and fought for an exemption from the mandate using clauses from the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993.
In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case. The ruling stated that employers do not have to cover certain forms of contraception in the health care plans they provide for their employees if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
This ruling is an utter violation of a woman’s right to decide what to do with herself and her body. To say that a woman must abide by her employer’s religious beliefs even if she does not agree with them undermines her right to live by her own beliefs. A medical decision, like what contraception to use, should be carefully made by a woman with her doctor and should not ever include her employer.
As a woman, I find this ruling not only shocking but also extraordinarily offensive. Other people’s beliefs, with which I do not agree, should not dictate what I am allowed to do. I alone am entitled to make decisions about myself and my body.
In addition, deciding that an employer should have a say in a female’s healthcare in general touches on the status of most women in the United States. Employers are not allowed to make decisions for a sick or injured employees, so why should they be allowed to do so for women in regard to contraception? In a nation that is 51 percent female, women are vastly underrepresented in positions of political power. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was cited in this ruling, requires laws to accommodate individuals’ religious beliefs. Because Hobby Lobby is a corporation, the law in no way justifies its obtaining a person’s rights.
While the ruling itself is intolerable, it could also set an adverse precedent for future court rulings. Using the same reasoning, companies could be excused from providing their employees with health care covering antidepressants, vaccinations, and anesthesia, for example, if the employers say that these medications violate their religious beliefs. It could also influence future rulings on abortion; pro-life employers could legally discriminate against women who have abortions, saying that terminating a pregnancy infringes upon their religious beliefs.
While we have come far as a society in terms of gaining equal rights for women, the struggle is not over. Even with all the progress we have made, the Hobby Lobby ruling is an enormous step backwards: men and women cannot have equal rights when people other than the woman herself are allowed to make personal choices for her. While conditions for women in the United States are much better than they were a century ago, it is vital to not forget that, while women are allowed to vote and go to college, there is still tremendous room for improvement.