Let it go

Last I checked, the Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird decisions, which provided a constitutional right to contraception for married and unmarried couples, still stand. No one has been denied access by law.

So what is all the fuss with the Hobby Lobby decision? Why is there a flurry of bills addressing abortion and contraception in the U.S. Senate? Did the Supreme Court ban contraception or women’s access to contraception in their recent ruling? 

The answer is no.

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No woman was denied “access” to contraception by the recent Supreme Court decision. There is a big difference between women being denied access (i.e. making birth control illegal) and an employer not wanting to pay for certain drugs it believes will cause abortions. That is what the Court ruled. Hobby Lobby has the right, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), to leave 4 of 20 types of contraception out of its employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

In fact, while protecting the employer’s conscience, the Court pointed to a method by which employees of such companies could receive free contraception coverage. It’s the arrangement already in place for religiously affiliated non-profits, under which the insurer enters into a separate contract for free coverage that doesn’t involve the employer. The insurer can handle this because covering contraception actually saves costs overall.

So here’s the situation: most employees of medium-to-large businesses will receive contraception for free through their employers. And as to the few objecting employers, the insurer can provide the coverage, just as with the non-profits. Access to contraception was never at issue.

Regardless, the U.S. Senate debated and failed to pass, S. 2578, which would have required businesses to cover all types of FDA approved contraception – even those that could reasonably be deemed to cause abortion. Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill, S.1696, to eliminate all federal and state laws that provide reasonable restrictions on abortion – including waiting periods, bans on late-term abortions and health and safety inspections.

Why the push?

The controversy and the continued sparring surrounding the Hobby Lobby ruling will do nothing to address the real needs of families in this nation nor will it get the essential swing voters out for Democrats to win key seats. Neither will holding a hearing on a bill that would repeal all state laws that provide common sense and reasonable restrictions to abortion – including bans on late-term abortion. These tactics only succeed to further divide and alienate Democrats – particularly in the heartland and the south. That’s a bad idea for Democrats. The future of the Senate leadership hangs in the balance.

We progressives support the idea that corporations should have a conscience – against sweatshop labor, in favor of environmental standards and GLBT rights. Yet so many progressives turn around and vilify Hobby Lobby for not wanting to include 4 out of 20 types of contraception in the health care package – even though the company pays its employees 90 percent higher than the federal minimum wage or $15 per hour for a new employee. While the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant for 5 years at $7.24 per hour, Hobby Lobby has raised the pay for its full-time and part-time employees for the past 4 years. Its employees are the lucky ones with employee-sponsor health insurance and a decent wage.

Millions of Americans still do not have health insurance or a living wage that allows them to pay for essential and sometimes lifesaving medications. There are families struggling financially and having to choose between medication and food. Families do not have access to doctors because they cannot afford the cost of transportation to get to there. Women are seeking abortion, not because they don’t have access, but because they believe it is their only choice. Pregnant women are not provided with reasonable accommodations in the workforce and face losing their jobs or jeopardizing their pregnancies. 

As a Nation, we need to take a collective vow to do what the song says, “let it go”. Just like Elsa, who was so focused on hiding her powers that she lost sight of what was best for her kingdom, the Congress is so caught up in abortion and contraception that it is neglecting the welfare of its constituency. Tired debates over abortion and contraception help raise funds for both the right and the left. But the Congress will continue to be frozen from addressing the important issues facing our nation if they continue to see abortion and contraception as the solution.

Day is executibe director of Democrats For Life of America.