Sometimes I feel as if I am becoming a wind-up doll of feminist outrage: point me in the direction of the newest misogynist disgrace, turn my key a few times, then watch me sputter and rant away. And maybe I’ll break this pattern, one of these years. But how can I do anything but voice my outrage when there are so many legitimately rage-inducing things happening every damn day?!?
Today’s miscarriage of justice is brought to you by the highest court in the land. As summarized by ABC News:
In a deeply divisive case pitting advocates of religious liberty against women’s right’s groups, the Supreme Court said today that two for profit corporations with sincerely held religious beliefs do not have to provide a full range of contraceptives at no cost to their employees pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.
So, in other words:
(h/t The Advocate)
Never mind the hypocritical contrast, reported by Forbes back in April, between Hobby Lobby’s 401k investments and the “deeply held religious principles” argued before SCOTUS:
In what just may be the most stunning example of hypocrisy in my lifetime, Mother Jones has uncovered numerous investments on the part of Hobby Lobby’s retirement fund in a wide variety of companies producing abortion and contraception related products. . . . In the case of the Hobby Lobby corporation, the company is closely held by the Green family who purport to have strong religious objections to certain types of contraceptive devices and are suing to protect those religious rights.
Remarkably, the contraceptive devices and products that so offend the religious beliefs of this family are manufactured by the very companies in which Hobby Lobby holds a substantial stake via their employee 401(k) plan.
Never mind all the ways this decision is actually deeply out-of-step with public opinion on the matter:
According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll that surveyed more than 10,600 people earlier this month, the majority of Americans don’t believe that business owners should be able to invoke their religious beliefs in order to avoid offering contraceptive coverage to their workers. (ThinkProgress)
Let’s just look at the decision itself and all of the ways it is appallingly bad.
First is the way this decision supports bad science: Hobby Lobby’s argument against supporting its employees’ access to these particular contraceptives is based in the fervently held and entirely incorrect belief that these contraceptives function as abortifacients:
Had any court subjected the Greens’ claims to evidentiary proof, it surely would have reached the same conclusion shared by the scientific community: None of the mandated contraceptive devices to which the Greens and Hobby Lobby object are “abortion-inducing.” (RH Reality Check)
Which brings me to major terrifying problem number two: the “minefield” of implications opened up by the Court’s ruling “that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs” (Justice Ginsberg’s dissent, as quoted by HuffPo). Many other commentators have remarked upon the ruling’s possible implications for business owners to justify a denial of additional modes of care that contradict their deeply-held religious beliefs — even when those beliefs are profoundly controverted by medical evidence and practice. To quote Justice Ginsburg again (this time, by way of Mother Jones):
Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]
But wait: the decision’s main author, Justice Samuel Alito, has headed that “slippery slope” argument off at the pass by specifically articulating the narrowness of the scope of influence for this legal precedent (via Slate):
This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates, that is for blood transfusions or vaccinations, necessarily fail if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.
So corporations-that-have-been-awarded-legal-personhood don’t get to impose their religious beliefs on employees’ health care? Unless they’re policing women’s sexuality and reproductive cycles, of course.
Why does this not make me feel better?
Enter major terrifying problem number three: the mind-numbing misogyny at play. Again. Yet and always, ever and ever again.
“What we saw today was five male justices essentially rule that discrimination against women is not discrimination at all,” Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, countered. “They said it’s OK for bosses to make personal decisions about health care which we pay for with our labor.” (CNN)
No matter the legal rhetoric, the message about women and sex remains the same. It seems appropriate that that quote from Ellen Willis is from the essay “Abortion: Is a Woman a Person?” Because what’s at stake in a decision like this – and in a debate like this – is women’s basic humanity, of which sexuality is an integral part. Yes, contraception is about health and women often need birth control for medical reasons – but we also need it for sex, and that’s just fine. (The Guardian)
I have some slim level of hope that the obscenity of this ruling will, in hindsight, turn out to be one of those “winning a battle but losing the war” moments, as Slate suggests it may become:
Ever since the lawsuits began over the HHS contraception coverage mandate, the claim has been that the attacks are not about sex but about religion—which presumably has broader implications than simply resenting women’s sexual liberation. But this decision limits the employer’s religious reach exclusively to judgments about the employee’s personal use of her own vagina, and no further. . . . [I]t’s ultimately not good for the religious right to have one of its own—Alito—limit the scope of legitimate religious grousing to matters of sexuality, as if religion has nothing else going for it. Hobby Lobby may have won this battle. But it won at the price of portraying the Christian right as little more than a movement of sex-obsessed busybodies.
But considering the long-standing tradition (then and now) of policing women’s sexuality, there’s part of me be that wonders if supporters of this decision will actually be thrilled to claim the title of sex-obsessed busybodies. Because they have the way the truth and the light, and they’re saving all us evil feminists from our wantonness! No wait: they don’t actually give much of a shit about us
feminists females. It’s all about protecting those poor children. At least until fetal implantation in the uterine wall. Everything after that — pre-natal health care, maternity leave, sane child-care options (both for working mothers, and also an economy where a single middle-class income is capable of supporting someone wanting to be a stay-at-home Mom or Dad)? You’re on your own.
Which is why I remain the wind-up doll of feminist outrage.
At least this all serves as an opportunity to remember what a bad-ass Ruth Bader Ginsberg is. Not only did she write a blistering 35-page dissent (linked in its entirety on Scribd), she took the not-unprecedented-but-still-highly-unusual step of reading her dissent from the bench:
Dissents from the bench are a rare departure from the Court’s carefully choreographed movements. Reserved for cases in which there are heated disputes among the justices, they gave a dissenter the ability to publicly shame the majority for perceived errors. (U.S. News and World Report)
Feminist hammer: http://youngfeministadventures.blogspot.com/2009/07/feminist-act-of-blogging.html
I dissent: http://abovethelaw.com/2013/07/seeking-submissions-for-our-notorious-r-b-g-competition/