No one should have to ask their boss for a permission slip to access critical health services — birth control or otherwise. But just two weeks ago, five men on the U.S. Supreme Court turned back the clock on decades of progress toward gender equality by deciding to allow the vast majority of employers to refuse to cover contraception as part of employees' health insurance policies.
This decision was wrong and misguided. That's why I've teamed up with Sen. Patty Murray to write legislation to restore American women's freedom to make personal health care decisions based on what is best for her and her family, not according to her employer's personal beliefs.
Here are six important things to know about the Hobby Lobby decision that underscore why Congress must pass our Not My Boss's Business Act ASAP:
1. This unprecedented Supreme Court decision affects millions of Americans nationwide — women and men.
The Supreme Court limited its ruling to "closely held" corporations, which are owned by a small group of people. But as many as 90 percent of American corporations are considered closely-held, and they employ about half of American workers. This means 9 in 10 American employers may now have a license to deny their employees affordable contraception.
2. Women pay for their contraception through their labor — it’s not free.
Employees have already paid for contraception, just like other medical services, through their labor and insurance premiums. Health insurance is part of a compensation package — there is nothing "free" about it. Your boss can't control how you spend your paycheck, and your boss shouldn't control how you can use the health insurance coverage you have earned either.
3. Affordable birth control is essential to women’s economic success.
Nearly all women use birth control at some point in their lives, yet more than half of women ages 18 to 34 have struggled with the cost. But thanks to the preventive health care provision in our nation's health care law, American women saved $483 million on birth control last year and more than 48 million women are now eligible for birth control without a co-pay. But this Supreme Court decision says that employers don't have to cover birth control, period. Paying out-of-pocket for many common forms of contraception can cost up to $80 a month — that's not pocket change.
4. It impacts ALL types of birth control … and this isn’t just about contraceptives.
While Hobby Lobby's owners may only object to certain forms of contraception, the Supreme Court's decision allows the vast majority of for-profit corporations to refuse to cover ALL forms of birth control — including the pill — if doing so goes against their religious beliefs. An employer's personal beliefs aside, their employees and their families should be able to decide with their doctors what form of FDA-approved contraception is right for them.
5. The decision allows a boss to impose their own personal religious beliefs on employees.
The First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of religion was intended to prevent the state from requiring individuals to subscribe to a particular faith — and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was intended to protect employees' rights to practice their faiths. The Supreme Court turned these principles upside down and will now allow CEOs and corporate boards to unilaterally impose their beliefs on their employees.
6. The Supreme Court unfairly singled out women and women’s health.
Contraception has been identified as essential preventive health care by a nonpartisan, independent group of doctors and other medical experts. More than 99 percent of women have used contraception, and 58 percent cite reasons other than avoiding pregnancy. Contraception is used to treat a variety of serious health conditions, from severe acne and endometriosis to preventing ovarian cancer.