If you’re anything like me, you were dismayed at the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The 5-4 decision with Justice Alito writing for the majority affirmed that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) applies to closely-held corporations, as their owners may have “sincerely held religious beliefs.” As such, these corporations cannot be required to provide their employees with health insurance that covers all FDA-approved methods of contraception as mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Despite Hobby Lobby’s claims that this was about its religious liberty, it’s actually about the freedom of women to observe what their own religious and moral teachings say about their health care decisions. The Court claimed in its majority decision that this ruling was narrow in scope, and that it only applied to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. Hobby Lobby’s owners only object to four particular methods of contraception, but we may start to see other closely-held for-profit corporations excluding all contraceptive coverage from their insurance plans based on this ruling. Disturbingly, we’ve already seen that this has emboldened other groups to ask for similar allowances to discriminate against particular groups in the name of “religious liberty.”
Consistent with the UCC General Synod’s long history of affirming and reaffirming women’s right to make their own decisions, UCC leaders immediately spoke out in disagreement following the Court’s ruling. Although the Court’s decision isn’t what we would have liked to see, there are still plenty of ways we can continue to advance women’s equality under the law and protect true religious liberty for individuals.
What Can You Do Now?
Join the conversation! Many advocates and organizations from a variety of faith traditions have been using social media to discuss the case’s implications and next steps we can take. Jump in with hashtags #NotMyBossBusiness, #MyReligiousLibMattersToo, #FaithVoice4Women, and #MyFaithMyBC
Continue to advocate for reproductive rights, autonomy, and access. UCC advocates have already found creative ways to show their support for all women. Take their lead and think of ways to get involved in your own community.
Make sure you’re receiving updates from our Justice Peace and Action Network (JPANet). One silver lining in the decision is that the Supreme Court left the door open for legislative fixes from Congress or action from Health and Human Services or the Obama Administration. We are working with our partners in DC to be sure that policy proposals come forward to ensure that all women are guaranteed access to the full range of reproductive options that work best for them and their families.
Use Our Whole Lives in your churches and communities. OWL is a comprehensive sexual education curriculum for all ages created in partnership with the UUA. We know individuals will be best equipped to make decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health if they have been if they have been fully educated about their bodies, sexuality, and the full range of contraceptive options.
Make sure you and your friends have the coverage you need! If you have any questions about your contraceptive coverage, this resource from the National Women’s Law Center can help you get started.