The U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 ruled that some for-profit private corporations, including the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, can deny coverage of birth control to their employees based on the religious beliefs of the business owners.
The 5-4 decision of the court brought this reaction from Tanya Atkinson, vice president of public affairs and education at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin: “The decision to use birth control is a woman’s personal decision and her boss should not be able to interfere with her ability to access this important health benefit. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin remains focused on making sure that women have access to the method of birth control that is best for them, without cost or other hurdles standing in the way.”
The Wisconsin organization says 99 percent of women rely on birth control at some point in their lives and affordable access is key.
Studies show that increased access to contraception has cost and health benefits for many women and reduces the rate of abortion. Birth control can help ease the symptoms of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and cramps, in addition to preventing unintended pregnancy.
And, according to Planned Parenthood, consistent birth control use increases when it is more affordable. Women who receive birth control with no co-pay or at a reduced cost are able to avoid more than 2 million unplanned pregnancies each year, which also reduces the incidence of abortion.
The Affordable Care Act only requires birth control be covered by insurance in the same manner other preventative drugs and treatments are covered, PP emphasized.
The Court decision also brought a reaction from The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health. Sara Finger, the group's executive director, called the ruling immensely disheartening. She said, "Today’s decision puts the personal opinions of bosses above the health care needs of women and we are committed to ensuring the people who would impose their personal beliefs on others are held accountable.."
And, at the Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis said, "As people of faith, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of women and in their right to make their own health care decisions, including whether to use birth control. Reproductive justice includes the right of every woman to follow her own conscience and religious teachings regarding when and whether to bear children. "
Margulis added, "Access to affordable, reliable contraception is a moral good that should be available to every woman. To privilege the beliefs of business owners over the beliefs of their employees is to deny those employees the religious freedom that is guaranteed to them in our Constitution. No employers should have the right to impose their own religious beliefs on their employees or to restrict those employees’ rights to make personal and private health care decisions for themselves."
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Right to Life group applauded the ruling.
"Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act mandate requiring businesses to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have a moral or religious objection will have a profound impact across the country,” stated Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life.
Lyons added, "Business owners and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for procedures or drugs which are morally objectionable to them."
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee, issued the following statement the afternoon of the decision: “Today our Supreme Court ruled against women and on the side of for-profit company owners who wish to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.
"The owners of Hobby Lobby, a for-profit arts and crafts store, and Conestoga Wood, a for-profit wood furniture manufacturer, should have no voice when it comes to women's private health care decisions. Unfortunately the Supreme Court does not agree. This dangerous decision could have far reaching consequences, as it opens the door for employers to restrict access to other essential health care services such as vaccinations or blood transfusions. No one should be denied access to health care because of her employer’s religious beliefs."
Moore also said, "Contraception coverage is a medical necessity that gives women the autonomy they need to plan their families and treat certain illnesses. The extremely personal and private decision to take birth control should remain just that – personal and private. I urge my colleagues to stand on the right side of history and fight for access to women’s health care."
In another statement, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison, said, "Today’s ruling not only continues a dangerous trend of favoring the rights of corporations over people, but also tramples on healthcare decisions made between a woman and her doctor.
“While many will tout this ruling as narrow, the fact is 90 percent of all businesses in the United States qualify as closely held. Thus, the Supreme Court has limited the personal healthcare decisions of women across the United States. The right of women to make their own choices about their healthcare is fundamental and deserves absolute protection."