The Supreme Court has agreed to review seven consolidated cases testing whether religious extremists will be able to practice a particularly ugly form of gender bigotry — blocking women’s access to contraception.
In all seven cases, religious schools, hospitals, and other nonprofits are challenging the Obama administration’s accommodation which requires insurance companies to cover contraception in all health plans, including employer-based plans, while allowing extremist religious employers not to pay for it or even administer it. (The insurance companies would pick up the costs and the administrative tasks.) That’s not good enough for these organizations, who insist that they must be given the right to force their religious beliefs about birth control on all of their employees, believers and nonbelievers alike, and keep contraception out of their plans entirely.
There are some beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, that should simply not be respected by any government. A “belief” that targets and endangers a specific demographic group that has historically experienced discrimination is no more than a religious mask for bigotry. Just as we reject the use of religion to justify racial and homophobic bigotry, the same is true for gender bigotry as well.
Blocking women’s access to contraception is gender bigotry, plain and simple. Unintended pregnancy is deadly. It is closely correlated with infant mortality, maternal mortality and increased risk of domestic violence homicide. The U.S. has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world — a higher rate than in many developing countries. Each year in the U.S., more than half of all pregnancies are unintended. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate holds the promise of saving women’s and infants’ lives by reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancy. Yet the Supreme Court is being told it must gut that life-saving mandate.
Notwithstanding extremist religious preaching, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women, like 99 percent of sexually active women overall and 97 percent of evangelical Protestant women, have used contraception at some point. Now the religious extremists are turning to the U.S. courts to accomplish what they could not do legitimately from their pulpits. But the last I checked, we were still a secular country, and the Supreme Court does not exist to do their dirty work for them.
NOW is already mobilizing our grassroots activists across the country to raise awareness about this latest threat to women’s health care. Every woman has the right to make her own reproductive health decisions. Not her boss, not some bishop, not some politician. And not some Supreme Court Justice.