Snowy Protest Outside Supreme Court
… and the Face of Pro-Choice 2014 This past Tuesday morning I had the opportunity to stand with hundreds of others in a freak late March full out snowstorm (wet cold and pelting) in Washington DC to protest the casebrought by Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, and another company, claiming that as corporations their religious rights are being violated when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance plans are required to cover contraception at no cost. This assumes that corporations should be afforded the same protected status as individuals. As one news article explained, besides invoking—as corporations—First Amendment provisions that guarantees the right to freely exercise religious beliefs, in the brief they filed they also claim protection under the 1933 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides religious practitioners protection against government intrusion. It has been revealed that prior to the passage of a national health insurance act; Hobby Lobby’s health plan had included access to contraceptive services. The company could also have simply paid a modest tax if it had wanted to opt out of the insurance requirement. A scan of blogs and vents in daily papers demonstrates the disbelief and outrage evoked by these efforts to deny individual choice. Companies do NOT have religious beliefs, people do, one person pointed out. Do employees of Hobby Lobby (and Conestoga Wood Specialities, a small firm owned by a Mennonite family) require a statement of faith prior to hire? Another writer asked. Thank you Hobby Lobby, you just sent me to Michael’s for my Easter crafts, was another common response. The potential impact of this case—should the nine Justices vote in favor of the companies—is huge: potentially impacting many other areas in which beliefs of a private corporation (the individuals who own it) will supersede the beliefs of the women and men who are their employees. At the very least the 13,000 employees of Hobby Lobby will be immediately impacted by a favorable vote. Many of them reproductive age women. The pro- reproductive justice protesters who gathered Tuesday morning in the cold included a number of Unitarian Universalists, both local and from around the country. What I saw was a crowd that tilted young: women and their male allies, quite a few of them wearing pink wool hats provided by Planned Parenthood (founded by Unitarian Margaret Sanger). The face of choice in 2014 is—or at least was that day—an engaged, determined cohort of the Americans who will be directly affected by any attempt to turn back the clock on birth control.