September 23, 2014

Supreme Court ruling on contraceptives could create ‘slippery slope’

© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, via Wikimedia Commons

US Supreme Court (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Advocates for women’s health warn that a U.S. Supreme Court decision on health insurance coverage for contraceptives could have major implications for other types of health care.

The high court ruled Monday that the owners of closely held private companies can refuse to provide health insurance that covers contraceptives, if it conflicts with their religious views. Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health Executive Director Sara Finger says she was shocked and disappointed by the decision. She says it’s “just unacceptable that, here we are in 2014, and birth control and contraception continued to be politicized, marginalized, and demonized the way it has.”

Finger also warns that the ruling could have implications that go beyond contraceptives. She says it’s “a slippery slope that can open up employees everywhere to being denied their health care they need and deserve, like vaccinations.” Finger says it’s now a scary waiting game to see which businesses decide to start using moral objections to deny coverage.

The ruling comes in a case brought by Hobby Lobby, which is owned by Evangelical Christians, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which is owned by a Mennonite family. The two companies argued that a mandate under the Affordable Care Act that requires them to cover all forms of contraception violates their deeply held religious beliefs. Specifically, they oppose certain forms of birth control that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, which they argue results in the abortion of a pregnancy.

Conservative groups praised the decision as a victory for religious freedom. Barbara Lyons with Wisconsin Right to Life says it shows “Business owners and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for procedures or drugs which are morally objectionable to them. Our First Amendment rights are once again protected by this decision.”