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Elections & Politics

Arizona Bill, Hobby Lobby Case Against Birth Control Benefit Could Be Free Pass to Discriminate

Contact: Planned Parenthood Action Fund Media Office, 212-261-4433

For Immediate Release: 02.25.14

WASHINGTON – Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards today issued a statement in response to a bill passed by the Arizona State Legislature allowing businesses to refuse services based solely on the owner's religious beliefs.  It is widely acknowledged that the purpose of the bill is to allow businesses to refuse to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.

The Arizona bill echoes arguments in two cases currently before the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which also seek, for the first time in our history, to allow for profit corporations to claim a religious belief to deprive individuals of legal rights — in the Supreme Court cases — the right to insurance coverage of contraception.  

The proposed Arizona law illustrates the broad implications that a ruling in favor of these corporations would have, setting the stage for employers to interfere with important medical decisions for their employees, or to discriminate at will against women, minorities, people with disabilities and others. In an op-ed published Monday, Richards discussed the far reach of the Arizona legislation. 

“Consider the Arizona bill a sneak preview of the much broader impact Hobby Lobby and Conestoga could have across the country. It’s a terrifying prospect that reaches beyond private medical decisions and into people’s everyday lives and their ability to fill a prescription for birth control. Will their ability to go out and get a slice of pizza, or go see a movie, be taken away next?

“Why have a proposed state law and two yet-to-be-decided court cases captured international attention and sparked national outrage? Because what’s happening in Arizona and in the boardrooms of national corporations like Hobby Lobby is fundamentally at odds with where we are as a country — and who we are….

“The vast majority of the American public wants women to make their own personal medical decisions and wants same-sex couples to be treated with equality and dignity. If this feels like a fight, that’s because it is: a fight between those who would rewind the clock 50 years and those who won’t go back.”

You can view the full op-ed here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2014/02/24/hed-arizona-s-anti-gay-bill-and-hobby-lobby-case-aren-t-about-religious-freedom.html

If you would like to connect with a Planned Parenthood Action Fund spokesperson, please contact the media office at 212-261-4433.

BACKGROUND

On Thursday, February 20, 2014, the Arizona Legislature passed legislation that will allow business owners to cite religious freedom to deny service to individuals of whom they disapprove.   The bill is intended to allow these businesses to deny services to same-sex couples. The bill is waiting signature or veto from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.  The bill is similar to two cases being addressed by the Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius — which examine the question of whether corporations are able to deny insurance coverage for particular medical treatments based solely on their religious beliefs.

More than 40 lawsuits have been filed by for-profit companies based on the notion that employers should be able to limit their employees’ access to birth control because the employer objects on religious or moral grounds. These companies range from an arts and crafts store to an auto parts store and multiple construction companies — none of which have any expertise or medical experience in the area of women’s health.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, it will assert for the first time in American history that private for-profit corporations have religious rights, and that employers have the right to interfere with medical decisions of their employees based on their personal beliefs. The implications of a favorable ruling for Hobby Lobby would impact much more than women’s access to birth control. It would create a very slippery slope, giving private, for-profit employers the right to impose their own medical preferences on their employees.

 

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.