Bizarre New Ruling Could Make It a Lot Tougher to Get Birth Control

birth control pillsGet ready to be outraged on the behalf of millions of women (including, probably, yourself). A court has ruled that even "secular employers" are allowed to refuse their employees insurance plans covering contraception if they have a "moral objection" to women using birth control. 

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If this sounds like Hobby Lobby all over again, it pretty much is -- except almost worse. (At the time, a very-much-in-disagreement Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that the decision was a bad one, saying it "ventured into a minefield" -- and now her words are proving eerily prophetic.)

The new case was brought by March for Life, a nonprofit behind an annual anti-abortion march in Washington, DC. March for Life is not a religious organization, but (as one might expect from a pro-life nonprofit), most members (including its president) are in fact quite religious, and March for Life actually "requires its employees to oppose most forms of contraception as a condition of working there." Still, their objections somehow still don't qualify as "religious," because they're technically a "secular" nonprofit -- so in order to give March for Life what they wanted, essentially, Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that "moral objections" and "religious beliefs" are the same thing. 

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Confusing, right? Probably because they more or less ARE the same thing, except one falls into a more official, government-protected category. Not that it matters -- since neither religious beliefs nor moral objections have any place dictating what sort of health care should be available to women -- but this is an alarming move in the wrong direction, if for no other reason than that people are gonna be crying "moral objection" over every little thing that ruffles their narrow-minded little feathers from now on. 

Of course, it's an alarming move in the wrong direction for other reasons, too, many of which basically boil down to the fact that the ruling makes utterly no sense at all. Here are the most bizarre and offensive things about the ruling:

1. Leon says that the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate March for Life is trying to get around "violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law, because it treats religious groups differently than secular ones." Methinks you're missing the point, Judge Leon.

2.  The Supreme Court already ruled on the above issue in a previous case, holding that "when the government exempts or accommodates religious organizations or individuals from a generally applicable law, it does not similarly have to exempt or accommodate their secular counterpart." So, does that ruling mean nothing now?

3. Following the logic of this ruling, "even a moral objection to a generally applicable law -- not a religious one -- is enough to exempt the moral objectors from having to follow it." Nothing ambiguous and/or easy-to-manipulate about that (heavy sarcasm).

4. Leon says this ACA mandate violates the RFRA, a federal law that requires the government not "substantially burden" the free exercise of religion. You know what's a substantial burden? Not having your birth control (which you may be taking for any number of medically necessary reasons) covered under insurance.

5. March for Life's main reason for saying that birth control violates their religious beliefs simply isn't true: They claim that nearly all forms of birth control are "abortifacients." In fact, making birth control more widely available should lead to fewer abortions.

Yikes. It's nothing short of horrifying that this kind of ruling somehow happened -- guess we're in the middle of that minefield RBG was talking about now. The question is, how do we get out?

 

Image via Annabelle Shemer/Flickr 

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