Tonawanda News

July 3, 2014

Women's rights haven't come far enough

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The recent Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby is what many believe is a blow to woman’s rights. 

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday that for-profit employers with religious objections can opt out of providing certain contraception coverage under Obamacare. 

The four types of birth control at the center of Hobby Lobby’s case were: Plan B, which is also known as the “morning after pill,” Ella, another emergency contraceptive, Copper Intrauterine Device and IUD with progestin — forms of birth control that some believe can cause or are akin to abortion. The company can still provide coverage for the birth control pill, condoms and other forms of contraceptives, just not the forms they feel are similar to abortion.

“We doubt that the Congress that enacted (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) — or, for that matter, ACA — would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.

The court’s four liberal justices called it a decision of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The language emphasized the ruling applied to tightly-held corporations with the same person or family holding more than 50 percent of the stake in the company. But does that really matter? Even if the ruling does not apply to large corporations or public companies, it still means that there are companies out there that can discriminate against a woman based on her health care choices solely on their religious views. 

Even if you don’t think the decision by the Supreme Court is wrong, it is setting a dangerous precedent and is a slippery slope for what comes next.

Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent, warned that the ruling would have wide repercussions and “untoward effects.”

“Although the court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private,” she wrote.

The Obama administration and women’s health groups have warned that the ruling could have much broader health coverage implications. What’s to prevent another employer from objecting to providing access to vaccines or blood transfusions on religious grounds?

But who are we kidding, women have been and are continuing to be discriminated against and persecuted in countries all over the world including the U.S. This is not the first time a majority-male governing body suppressed women’s rights and it unfortunately won’t be the last. 

Women in countries in the Middle East like Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan must wear head to toe burqas or risk severe punishment by men. Women in India are being gang-raped at alarming rates and often being killed in the process. Honor killings are being performed all over India where if a woman has brought “shame” to her family, they can legally murder her with no repercussions. 

Honestly, women in the United States and other developed nations are leaps and bounds ahead of women in Third World countries. Yet, here we are still having our bodies and health care decisions run by a governing body made up primarily of men.

As wonderful as it was to see the first African-American president elected to office in 2008, we still have not elected a woman president. Great Britain, Germany, India, Ireland, Philippines, Argentina, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Finland, Brazil, Denmark, South Korea and Norway among others have all had women presidents while the United States has none. 

I bet the women who fought so hard for women to gain the right to vote all those years ago, would be surprised we haven’t come farther than this in 2014. 

The fight for women’s rights is not over by a long shot. 

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com.