Sisterhood Blog

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right on Hobby Lobby

By Sarah Seltzer

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It fascinated me, when the Hobby Lobby decision came down, to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito debating the potential ramifications of the case via their dissent and decision, respectively. Alito declared his surety that allowing companies to exercise religious domination (essentially) over their employees would not lead to all kinds of discrimination, and that only certain kinds of women’s reproductive healthcare would be affected.

Ginsburg held an opposing view, warning the court that it had entered a “minefield” of slippery-slopes. If any sincerely-held religious beliefs can be grounds to apply for a health insurance exception, she noted, then soon enough we could be hearing from business owners who sincerely believe that God tells them to do more than discriminate against women’s health: discriminate against Jews, or gay people, for instance.

Already, analysts have watched Ginsburg’s predictions come true with alarming speed. Not the racism and anti-Semitism, yet, but much of the rest. Already, thanks to secondary rulings, all birth control coverage can now be excluded from coverage, and even signing a form signaling religious objections to contraception has been deemed a burden on institutions’ religious liberty. This Friday-evening decision last week prompted Sonia Sotomayor to write, in dissent, that the majority was acting in a way that “undermines confidence in this institution.”

As Zoe Carpenter at The Nation writes,”the conservative majority has effectively endorsed the idea that religious objections to insurance that covers any form of preventative healthcare for women have merit,” not just the IUDs and emergency contraceptives that Hobby Lobby (wrongly) claimed were “abortifacients.” And it goes further, as Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times notes: “ the Korte family, which owns an Illinois construction company, refuses to pay for or support not only ‘contraceptives, sterilization, abortion, (or) abortion-inducing drugs,’ but ‘related education and counseling.’ (Emphasis added.) In other words, if a woman asks her doctor for advice on reproductive options, the consultation may not be covered.”

Intruding on womens’ medical consultations with their doctors is not even where the ramifications end. LGBT groups have retreated from endorsing the Employment Non Discrimination Act en masse, concerned that there is now too wide a religious loophole thanks to Hobby Lobby. And even if workplace discrimination is not allowed, discriminating against consumers may be.”Though it’s unlikely courts will revisit racial discrimination, if Ginsburg is right and businesses can get exemptions from providing services to certain minority groups, Hobby Lobby could create a situation where LGBT individuals can be refused services.”

All these consequences are the result of treating corporate entities as people whose religious proclivities take precedence over the individuals in their employment. It’s a terrible decision for anyone in a minority or oppressed subgroup of society.


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