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Texas Responds to Hobby Lobby Contraception Case

Dems, health groups and religious freedom advocates slam ruling

By Richard Whittaker, 2:30PM, Mon. Jun. 30

Back in the trenches: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, back leading the charge against the conservative war on choice, this time in the shape of the SCOTUS ruling on Hobby Lobby
Back in the trenches: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, back leading the charge against the conservative war on choice, this time in the shape of the SCOTUS ruling on Hobby Lobby
Photo by Jana Birchum

This morning, the United States Supreme Court ruled that family-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby can decide to not provide contraception through their health insurance if it does not fit their religious beliefs. Now advocates for reproductive rights in Texas are condemning the decision.

While the original suit was filed outside of Texas, this state has been ground zero for the reproductive rights battle. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, fired back:

"Today's disappointing decision to restrict access to birth control puts employers between women and their doctors. We need to trust women to make their own healthcare decisions – not corporations, the Supreme Court, or [Attorney General] Greg Abbott."

Unsurprisingly, her Republican challenger for the governor's mansion was far more supportive of the SCOTUS decision:

“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.”

Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, positively rolled her eyes at his glee over the ruling.

"It’s unbelievable that we are still fighting for access to birth control in 2014. And simply preposterous that Greg Abbott would state that limiting access to birth control is 'protecting life.' Texas women have already suffered numerous clinic closures and loss of access to basic care, including birth control. But Greg Abbott wants to see their access to health care limited even more."

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, condemned the ruling, stating that this ruling "is a slippery slope with no end" by "five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights."

"NARAL’s message has always been clear: bosses who want control over their employees' personal medical decisions are offensive, out of touch, and out of bounds, and so is this ruling. We call upon Congress to right this wrong, and we will work tirelessly with our allies and member activists to make sure that the people who would stand between a woman and her doctor are held accountable."

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, echoed Hogue's fears about the slippery slope:

Under the ruling, some corporations will be treated like religious institutions and these so-called 'religious corporations' will not have to pay for health care that they disagree with. So what happens if a woman needs birth control and their employers won't pay? What happens if a trans woman needs hormones and their bosses won't pay? What happens if a couple needs fertility treatments and the 'religious corporation' they work for won't pay?

On the surface, this will be described as a victory for religious freedom. However, the decision is a finely-tuned one that only gives such legally binding weight to anti-choice evangelicals. Moreover, Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, warned of "unintended consequences" for employers that decide to inflict their beliefs on their employees through their healthcare provision:

"Today the Supreme Court effectively permitted the deeply held religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby CEO & Founder David Green and his wife to be institutionalized as corporate policy. This decision will most likely have some unintended consequences, including failure to attract and retain the best talent, disgruntled employees and drops in productivity. Businesses that support religious diversity will protect freedom of religion while employees of all religious beliefs – and none – will feel respected and included in the workplace."

However, the fundamentalists of the Texas Pastor Council painted this as another strike back against the war on Judeo-Christian values (most commonly expressed in the War on Christmas) and painted this as another step in their effort to rewrite the concept of freedom of religion.

“The victory for Hobby Lobby today is a victory for basic freedom and in particular the right to exercise our religious beliefs outside the walls of the church building as intended by our Founding Fathers."

Doubtless these are just the first shots in the latest phase of the ongoing war on choice and science. We'll keep you up to date with the next volley.

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