October 4, 2013
The Supreme Court opens on Monday, and the 50 or so cases they’ve agreed to hear so far lack the punch of last year’s docket, which included landmark voting rights and same-sex marriage cases. The Raging Bull copyright case is about as sexy as it gets. But the justices usually hear somewhere between 75 and 80 cases in a season. That leaves a lot of room to add some hot button issues that are making their way up through the lower courts. The hottest of all may be corporate control of contraception.
Obamacare mandates that employer health plans cover birth control without co-payments, and some employers don’t like it. A few, like Hobby Lobby and Eden Foods, hate the rule so much that they’ve filed lawsuits to stop it. They say they don’t believe in birth control, and covering it for female employees violates their religious freedom. Lower courts have conflicting opinions about whether they’re right, so the issue is likely to land at the feet of the Supremes this term.
Wait a minute.
Corporations have religious freedom? I didn’t even know they went to church, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one get down on its knees and pray. I know actual women have religious freedom under the constitution — so what about their right not to be forced to bow to the dictates of the boss’ religious beliefs?
Understand, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to exempt churches and church-related institutions from the rule, while still guaranteeing female employees right to birth control if they want it. But the administration has drawn the line at allowing for-profit corporations to dodge the law by citing “religious rights.”
It’s anybody’s guess how the high Court will swing. The conservative majority has already ruled that corporations are citizens. And they’ve consistently found in favor of their corporate buddies over women in employment discrimination cases. On top of that, six of the nine justices are male, and five of those are Catholic. Could be stacked against women.
Trouble is, a decision in favor of corporations won’t affect just women. Christian Scientists are opposed to all kinds of medical treatment, including that for diabetes, cancer, and meningitis. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in blood transfusions. There are undoubtedly other religious taboos on medical procedures. So enterprising businesses that want to save money could cite religious freedom to exclude virtually any medical treatment from their insurance plans. Surgery, antibiotics, immunizations — you name it.
Where will it end? The Court will decide, and that means your next health care Decider could be your friendly neighborhood corporate citizen.
Listen to the 2-minute radio commentary here: