Last week, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ruling for the first time ever that bosses have the power to deny basic health coverage to their employees. While many anti-women’s health politicians were eager to celebrate this terrible decision despite its negative ramifications for women and families, their kneejerk attacks on women’s health will come at a steep price in November’s midterm elections.
While we don’t yet know exactly how many women will lose coverage of their contraceptive care in the wake of this ruling, we do know that Justice Samuel Alito’s decision was certainly not “narrow.” It opened the door to allow many employers to deny coverage for any type of birth control to their employees. Case in point: in the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court let three rulings from Courts of Appeals throughout the country stand in which the employers had been allowed to assert broader religious objections to coverage for any and all methods of birth control. And then there are CEOs like Michael Potter of Eden Foods, who had previously been told they were required to follow the law even though they object to all forms of birth control, and who because of the Supreme Court's ruling, now have a second chance to deny their employees insurance coverage for any kind of contraception.
Importantly, the birth control benefit is already available to 30 million women across the country – and despite the terrible Supreme Court ruling, that benefit remains in place, and women aren’t going to let politicians take it away. For millions of women in this country, the only thing controversial about birth control is the fact that we’re still debating whether this basic health care should be covered by insurance. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in this country have used birth control at some point in their lives, including 98 percent of Catholic women. It’s unbelievable that in 2014, we’re still fighting for access to birth control – but we are.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that organizations, such as Hobby Lobby, who claim objections to contraceptive care for their female employees have zero qualms about covering treatments like Viagra for their male employees.
SOME POLITICIANS HAVE ALREADY FORGOTTEN THE LESSONS OF 2012
In the 2012 elections, Mitt Romney opposed access to basic health care like birth control and lost among all women voters by 11 points and unmarried women by 36 points—key subsets of the electorate that ultimately decided the election.
After the 2012 elections, national Republican leadership issued an “autopsy report” as part of an effort to identify why GOP candidates lost so badly. One of the key findings was the clear gender gap, created by women who rejected these reckless policies. Said the report:
“Much was written after the 2012 election regarding the Republican Party’s ‘women’ problem; these conclusions were based on both perception and data…The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have.”[GOP.com Growth and Opportunity Project,3/17/2013]
Polling has repeatedly shown that a majority of Americans support coverage of contraception and oppose exemptions for for-profit corporations, such as Hobby Lobby. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on June 29, the day before the Supreme Court handed down its decision, found 53 percent of Americans disagreed with Hobby Lobby’s position while only 35 percent agreed. [Reuters/Ipsos, 6/29/14]
What should alarm Republicans even more is that 68 percent of American women voters oppose efforts that allow corporations like Hobby Lobby to refuse coverage of contraceptive care. The facts are clear—contraceptive coverage is a mainstream value, especially among women. [Hart Research, 3/24/14]
WOMEN ARE WATCHING…AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD ACTION FUND AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD VOTES HAVE A RECORD OF MAKING SURE THEY VOTE
Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes have already launched our 2014 Women Are Watching campaign, and we’re taking note of every single candidate who applauded the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision to allow bosses to deny female employees birth control coverage. In the key races identified below – and in others -we plan to ensure that women voters know exactly what’s at stake and who would block access to contraceptive care. For candidates who would turn back the clock on reproductive rights, this isn’t just an empty threat.
A 2012 post-election report from the Sunlight Foundation on big winners and losers found that the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes had a 98 percent return on their electoral investments — having supported 12 winning candidates and opposed 12 losing candidates. Polling from 2012 showed that access to safe and legal abortion, affordable birth control, and basic health care access are motivating voting issues for women, who view them as core economic issues for their families
In 2014, we plan to build upon that success and utilize the same, effective methods of educating voters about candidates’ positions on contraception and all women’s health issues, and then turning out our voters on Election Day.
Senator Patty Murray and Senate Democrats have already announced plans to seek a legislative remedy to this ruling. We look forward to supporting Sen. Murray and other members of the House and Senate who are working to protect America’s women, while also educating voters about the candidates and Senators who stand in the way of this basic preventive care for women.
THE 2014 RACES WHERE HOBBY LOBBY COULD HELP DETERMINE THE OUTCOME
In key Senate races, Cory Gardner, Steve Daines and Joni Ernst all supported Personhood measures, which could interfere with personal decisions about birth control, access to fertility treatments, management of a miscarriage, and access to safe and legal abortion. Senators Scott Brown and Mitch McConnell both voted for the failed Blunt Amendment, which would have created contraceptive exemptions similar to those granted to Hobby Lobby.
Many other candidates, including Thom Tillis and Greg Abbott, have supported efforts to drastically restrict women’s access to basic health care at the state level.
Meanwhile, Senators such as Kay Hagan, Mark Udall, Jeanne Shaheen, have been staunch supporters of women’s rights and expanded access to basic health services—including contraceptive care.
In many key states, Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations are already working to educate women about what’s at stake in this year’s election. So much is at stake in these midterm elections—and women are watching.
Thom Tillis was among the first to applaud the ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, despite numerous articles highlighting women voters as the key demographic in North Carolina’s 2014 Senate race.
“Today the Supreme Court made a strong stand in two cases for important First Amendment freedoms – the right to not be forced to pay union dues and the right to religious freedom. Although today was a loss for Kay Hagan, Barack Obama, and the Washington bureaucrats who want to run our lives, the American people are the clear winners.”
Extremist candidate Joe Miller applauded the Hobby Lobby decision as “a triumph for Constitutional liberty.” Other Republican candidates Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan have previously issued statements of support for Hobby Lobby.
Cory Gardner twice cosponsored Personhood legislation, and following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Gardner hailed it as “the right decision to protect religious liberty and the First Amendment.”
Steve Daines, who co-sponsored the extremist “Life Begins at Conception” Bill in 2013, issued the following statements applauding the Hobby Lobby decision: “Today’s Supreme Court decision protects Americans’ rights to religious freedom against Obamacare overreach,” and “Every American should be free to live and work in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has been a leading force in the fight to limit access to basic health care for Texas women.
Following the decision last week, Abbott said: “Today’s ruling is a major victory for religious freedom and another blow to the heavy-handed way the Obama Administration has tried to force the misguided Obamacare law on Americans. Once again, the Supreme Court has stricken down an overreaching regulation by the Obama Administration—and once again Obamacare has proven to be an illegal intrusion into the lives of so many Americans across the country.”
In the Iowa Senate, Joni Ernst staked a claim as an extreme legislator who supported Personhood legislation. Last week, she doubled down on her opposition to contraceptive care by applauding the Hobby Lobby decision:
“Joni applauds the Supreme Court for reigning in a federal government that continues to overreach and apply a one-size fits all approach on Iowa and the American people. This case was never about limiting individual healthcare decisions – but about pushing back against the violation of religious freedom by President Obama and Bruce Braley, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
Scott Brown cosponsored 2012’s Blunt Amendment, which raised the same claims as the Hobby Lobby complaint. After losing women voters by 18 points to Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown is now trying to hide his position on access to contraception, even as he calls for the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would deny all women access to no co-pay birth control.
According to the Concord Monitor, “Scott Brown’s campaign took several hours to issue a statement and did not directly comment on the court’s ruling, even when pressed for further comment.”