It’s been almost 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that ended state bans on contraception and declared that birth control was a private decision between a woman, her doctor, and her family.
Nevertheless, a woman’s right to access contraception is back in front of the Supreme Court in another landmark case.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard a case — Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius — that asks whether a boss can impose his or her health care preferences on employees. If decided in favor of CEOs, it would allow bosses to effectively make decisions about birth control and many other forms of health care for everyone who works for them.
I was in Eugene on Friday with workers, small business owners, and women’s health advocates to shine a light on this issue — because in 2014, a woman’s right to contraceptive care should not be controlled by her employer.
To start off, here are the numbers:
Seventy percent of Americans believe that women should be able to make decisions about reproductive health care without interference from politicians, CEOs or bosses.
Ninety-nine percent of women will use contraception at some point in their lives, whether for family planning or other medical reasons.
And more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford contraceptives.
Many patients rely on birth control not just for family planning — which is critical health care in and of itself — but also for painful and dangerous conditions like endometriosis. A woman shouldn’t have to explain herself to her boss when she needs birth control. She shouldn’t have to ask an employer for permission.
That’s why we should treat birth control like any other preventive medical care — just as we have in Oregon since 2007, when we passed the Access to Birth Control Act (or ABC Act) to treat contraceptives like any other prescription drug.
We rightly value religious liberty in this country, and that means balancing two key interests: protecting each person’s ability to worship in his or her own way, and not imposing one person’s religious values on another.
Both Oregon’s ABC Act and the Affordable Care Act strike that balance by granting exemptions to houses of worship and religious nonprofit organizations, while still ensuring strong coverage for women who work for secular, for-profit companies.
These laws respect religious liberty, while also recognizing that it is out of bounds for bosses to make very personal health care decisions for their employees.
While this specific Supreme Court case is about contraception, a finding that bosses can pick and choose their employees’ health care coverage could have limitless consequences. What if a boss has religious objections to vaccines for employees’ children? What about blood transfusions? Or treatment for HIV/AIDS?
Frankly, what it boils down to is this: Your boss shouldn’t be inside your bedroom, your exam room, or your trip to the emergency room. Your personal and private health decisions are just not your boss’s business. The Supreme Court needs to keep it that way by ensuring that women and workers come first.