Court Says Some Employers Don’t Have to Cover Birth Control

There is a lot of discussion over the US Supreme Court’s decision: Court Says Some Employers Don’t Have to Cover Birth Control | Political Wire.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split, ruled that “closely held” companies can on religious grounds opt out of a federal health-care law requirement that companies provide contraception coverage for employees, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The court’s five conservatives wrote that private companies, such as Hobby Lobby Stores, can’t be forced to provide contraceptive health services that violate their owner’s religious beliefs. The case was the first challenge to the Affordable Care Act to reach the Supreme Court since 2012, when the justices upheld most of the health-care overhaul against a constitutional challenge.”

National Journal: “How deeply the court’s decision undermines the contraception mandate will depend largely on how business owners respond… The furthest-reaching implications could come further down the road; the Obama administration and its allies have warned that companies will rely on the ruling to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.”

Wonk Wire: More Obamacare lawsuits poised to follow

I personally have three reactions to this.  The first is to bemoan the fact that women’s comprehensive reproductive health care options, options which have been scientifically shown to be important to women’s health, and to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, will be able to vetoed by their employer if that employer decides those options violate their personal religious views.

My second reaction is an understanding that, to some degree, this is a result of the structure of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), providing coverage by mandating that businesses provide it, rather than just having the government provide it with a single payer option.

I fully understand that the politics of the time made any single payer plan politically unfeasible (despite the fact that older Americans already have it with Medicare), and that the people who passed the ACA had to work with what was achievable, but our inability to provide a real government run plan exposes people to having their options curtailed by their employer, and that’s a shame.

My final reaction is that we really need to stop pretending that the US Supreme Court is something other than a political institution.  They may be insulated from the more immediate political pressures that elected officials face, but the track record of the justices show that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, they take care of the people who buttered their bread.

The main takeaway from this is that elections matter and can have long term consequences.  There are currently justices on the court whose appointments go back as far as Ronald Reagan.  Still, the next President will almost certainly have some nominations to make, and they could well swing the ideological balance on the court.  But who they nominate will be constrained by which party controls the Senate.

All of which is to say, if this decision makes you angry, register that anger at the ballot box, and convince others to do the same.  Anything else you do, petitions etc, will have minimal impact.

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