When I joined the National Health Law Program as its new executive director, I knew to expect challenges. After all, our mission — securing health care rights for those in need — is a challenging one, perhaps never more so than now. The Affordable Care Act offers great hope for the tens of thousands of Americans who have been living with no or inadequate health insurance. Unfortunately, it also has generated political gamesmanship, with the most recent fallout harming women across the country.
The Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is an example of the latter.
The decision that closely-held corporations can “exercise religion” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to deny female employees access to basic health care — birth control — is wrong in its holding and its implications. Starting with Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, commentators have criticized the decision for blurring the line that corporate law is supposed to create between an individual and a business entity.
This does not begin to touch on the Court’s willingness to ignore contemporary science and its complacency in the face of the unequal treatment of women. Religious beliefs are not a license to discriminate, nor to make health care decisions for someone else.