Supreme Court Brings Back the 1950s, Allows Corporations to Deny Birth Control Coverage

By Sunsara Taylor | July 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Monday, June 30, the Supreme Court granted the right of for-profit corporations to deny birth control coverage to women, and opened the door to even more dramatic and far-reaching imposition of religious bigotry in the name of “religious freedom.”

Starting today women across this country can be denied the ability to safely and affordably prevent unplanned pregnancies because of the Dark Ages religious beliefs of their employers. This will make birth control prohibitively expensive for huge numbers of women at a time when access to abortion is undergoing record and ominous restrictions. This comes just days after the Supreme Court struck down a “buffer zone” law in Massachusetts that had prevented anti-abortion fanatics from approaching women within 35 feet of the entrance to an abortion clinic. That law was passed in the context of hateful and vicious harassment hurled at women and staff entering abortion clinics, and was enacted in the immediate wake of the murder of two women working at abortion clinics in Massachusetts in 1994 in order to increase the physical safety of abortion providers.

Taken together, these Supreme Court rulings dramatically accelerate the violent momentum in this country that is slamming women back to the 1950s—to a time when birth control was unavailable to most women, when abortion was illegal, and when millions and millions of women had their lives foreclosed by forced motherhood.

One of the most outrageous and illegitimate dimensions of Monday's ruling is the way it rested on the substitution of religious dogma for science. The Hobby Lobby, a chain store owned by Christian fascists who have placed full-page ads in local newspapers promoting Christian holidays (in opposition to the supposed secular assault on religion) and who are planning to open a Bible Museum near the National Mall in Washington, DC in 2017, argued that IUDs (intrauterine devices) and the morning after pill are forms of abortion and therefore including coverage of them in the insurance plans they provide for their employees violates their religious beliefs.

The reality is that abortion actually ought to be covered by all health insurance policies because it is absolutely necessary for women to be able to decide for themselves when and whether to bear children. With this ruling the Supreme Court opened the door even wider to imposing religious dogma on people and society even in the face of evidence and science.

Further, as noted even by the dissenting opinion of the court, this decision can be used as a precedent to impose even vaster religious dogma on people throughout this country in the name of “religious freedom.” As dissenting Justice Ginsberg noted, the logic of this decision “extends to corporations of any size, public or private,” and that corporations could now object to “health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work.” Ginsberg went on to note that as recently as 1966 the owner of Piggie Market Enterprises appealed to the court to defend his “right” to refuse to serve Black people based on his religious beliefs opposing racial integration, and that as recently as 1985 a closely held for-profit health club chain appealed to the court to defend their “right” to refuse to hire an “individual living with but not married to a person of the opposite sex,” “a young, single woman working without her father’s consent or a married woman working without her husband’s consent,” and any person “antagonistic to the Bible,” including “fornicators and homosexuals.” While these two cases were denied at the time, the logic of Monday's ruling opens the door to these kinds of arguments to be entertained, and even upheld, in the future.

What does it say about a country when its highest court gives credence and the backing of the state to this kind of outrageous religious bigotry and the denial of science? What does it say about this country's view of half of humanity that one of the most basic and fundamental rights of women—the right to decide for themselves when and whether to have children—is being snatched away through street-level harassment, state-by-state laws, and Supreme Court rulings?

The fact that in 2014 the Supreme Court is aggressively taking part in the systematic assault to slam women back to the horrors of the 1950s and the enslavement of forced motherhood reveals yet again the complete illegitimacy of the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules over us. It reveals the fundamental and urgent need for people to get busy preparing the ground, preparing the people, and preparing the vanguard party for the time when millions can be led to go all out to seize power through revolution. And it reveals the urgent need for millions and millions of people in this country to wake up and confront the sober reality that—at this moment of unprecedented assault on women's basic right to abortion and even birth control—there will be no protection from the courts. Instead, we must cast off illusions and mount massive, widespread, political resistance and struggle to defend women's rights to birth control and abortion as part of the fight for the full liberation of women.

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