Supreme Court Breakfast Table

We Need to Celebrate Businesses That Pay for All Forms of Birth Control
An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 1 2014 3:14 PM

Supreme Court Breakfast Table

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We need to celebrate businesses that pay for all forms of birth control.

Religious freedom supporters hold a rally to praise the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby.
But who will stand up for the companies that cover IUDs?

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

That was fast. Hobby Lobby jumped from the pages of a Supreme Court opinion into political talking points in a nanosecond. On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz hailed the ruling for affirming that Americans “have a right to live and work in accordance to their conscience.” (American employers, not American employees, I have to add.) For the Democrats, Sen. Patty Murray made a promise: “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will,” she said, vowing that she will figure out how to cover the birth control of the women affected by the court’s decision.

Emily Bazelon Emily Bazelon

Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

How many woman will that be, and who are they? That’s hard to say—harder than usual following a major Supreme Court decision, perhaps. Along with Hobby Lobby and the other two smaller companies that won, 71 others have also sued on religious grounds to get out of paying for health insurance that covers some forms of birth control. I wonder, though, if the reaction to this decision will make that number grow or keep it low. Maybe it will depend on geography, with companies in redder and more evangelical parts of the country feeling freer to sign on. But I can’t quite imagine covering the IUD and the morning-after pill becoming the new red/blue, have/have-not line. I know that for lawyers, corporate personhood trips off the tongue, but for regular people, the idea that companies have religious rights and beliefs is counterintuitive. Here’s a study to prove it. And attacking the IUD and the morning-after pill—well, I know that’s a tenet of diehard opposition to abortion, but it’s an extremist, unscientific stance that has helped defeat anti-abortion personhood bills in several states.

Maybe what we need is a #BossesForBirthControl movement—a way to recognize businesses that support their female employees by paying for all the forms of contraception recommended by the scientists who studied comprehensive preventive care for women. Let’s hail all the companies run by people who keep covering the IUD because they think whether to use it should be up to the women who work for them.

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This is where the law should intersect with politics—when it galvanizes activists. In the end, that’s why I think the anti-abortion protesters outside the Boston clinic who won in McCullen have the right to be on the sidewalk. I’ve spent a fair amount of time at abortion clinics, as a reporter and also as a friend to women going for the procedure, so I’ve walked past my share of “Don’t Kill Your Baby” shouters and holders of giant, bloody posters. It can be anxiety-inducing and embarrassing, as you said, Dick. But isn’t that simply a feature of emotional protest? If these people wanted to stand on the sidewalk to protest a war, I wouldn’t want to push them off the sidewalk. As long as the protesters use words, and not spit or fists or any other conduct that tips into harassment, then they are not the burden to abortion I’m worried about. Protesters can also be clarifying and spine-stiffening.

Women seeking abortions rarely get turned around by a protester at a clinic entrance. And if they do, then maybe they’re not sure of their decision. I’m much more worried about the next big Supreme Court case about abortion, the one that is just offstage, waiting. I don’t know whether it will be a challenge to the Texas law that is expected to shut down all but five or six clinics in the state in September, or one of the many other efforts to block access throughout the country. But the have/have-not line that’s of urgent concern to me is the one separating the regions that have clinics and the ones that don’t. The areas without clinics are growing.

I didn’t mean to end on a grim note, though! The Supreme Court may disappoint, but the Breakfast Table never does. It’s one of the pleasures of the year to digest and begin thinking through the end of the term with you. Thank you all for your wisdom on the fly, and your vigor and spirit.

Till next year,

Emily