In her dissent to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case — allowing private companies to stop providing birth control in their health plans — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” And yet, the Tribune’s editorial board heralded the ruling as a “triumph for religious freedom” (“Court protects religious freedom,” Our Views, July 1).
Really, guys? Taking birth control from minimum-wage moms and calling it a “triumph for religious freedom” seems awfully cynical.
Your editorial cited an excerpt from the ruling stating “the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees.” How does making birth control financially inaccessible to low-wage employees protect them?
Birth control is basic preventive health care for women — 99 percent of sexually active women have used birth control at some point in their lives, for a whole host of health care reasons, including endometriosis, migraines, premenstrual pain, and menstrual regulation. Contraception also reduces the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers — and ovarian cancer affects 1 in 71 women in her lifetime. By using oral contraceptives for five or more years, the risk of developing ovarian cancer is reduced by 50 percent, making birth control a basic and effective preventive treatment.
Studies have also shown that increased access to contraception reduces the rate of abortion, making the birth control benefit a key measure to reducing the rate of abortion nationwide. But birth control is expensive. A 2010 survey found that more than a third of women have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point in their lives. It just makes basic economic sense for women and their families to have access to affordable birth control.
The worst part of this decision is the misinformation surrounding it. Your editorial cited Justice Alito writing, “If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions…” Your editorial even refers to the so-called morning-after pill as “life-ending” and points out that the pill is viewed by some religions as “akin to abortion.” None of this is scientifically accurate.
Susan Wood is a professor of health policy at George Washington University. Before that she was an assistant commissioner for women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration. She says referring to things like Plan B as abortion “is not only factually incorrect, it is downright misleading.” She says, “Their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.”
Reasonable people can disagree, but first let’s establish what we’re disagreeing about: In the case of the Hobby Lobby ruling, it is access to birth control through health insurance provided by private companies, not abortion services. Sadly, it seems when it comes to women’s health both the majority on the court and at the Tribune are more concerned with rhetoric than with the facts about what is best for women.
Barbara A. Zdravecky is the treasurer of the Florida Planned Parenthood PAC’s Women are Watching campaign.