Magazine article The Human Life Review

Meanwhile, outside the Panic Room: Contraception, Hobby Lobby, and Women's Rights

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Meanwhile, outside the Panic Room: Contraception, Hobby Lobby, and Women's Rights

Article excerpt

Contra Justice Ginsburg, the Hobby Lobby decision is no cause for alarm. Yet we should acknowledge and address a fear she highlights: the serious obstacles women face today in the realms of sex, marriage, and parenthood.

Prior to the 2012 HHS Mandate, there were no "runs" on birth control suppliers, nor were there demonstrations in the streets by women demanding free birth control. Nowhere was there observed a dearth of women willing to work for businesses informed by a religious conscience on matters of contraception or abortion.

This should come as a shock to those predicting the end of women's freedom as a result of the Supreme Court's decisions in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. It should also shock those protesters screaming about women's ovaries on the steps of the Supreme Court. It should even shock the president of the United States, who took time away from his deliberations concerning Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, to tweet cleverly against this win for religious freedom. And perhaps it will deliver the biggest shock to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dissent in Hobby Lobby spoke of the "harm," the "havoc," and the threat to women's "ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation" posed by the decision. Media reaction has been predictably similar.

Supporters of religious freedom and of women's freedom to speak for themselves shouldn't count on the utter silliness of this line of thinking to cause it to self-destruct. In fact, Ginsburg's way of measuring freedom, including women's freedom, enjoys a lot of support. In the context of the mandate, I am referring to two points that are popular despite their irrationality. First: whenever the government creates a new entitlement, private actors' refusal to provide it constitutes what Justice Ginsburg calls "depriving others of rights." (One sees this dynamic in the context of same-sex marriage recognition laws as well.) Second: massively available and cheap or free contraception is absolutely foundational to women's freedom.

Undoubtedly, it is difficult to offer pithy responses to these claims. Yet there are two responses that are not only logically necessary, but serve women's flourishing in a superior manner.

These responses are, first, enumerating the myriad reasons that many women won't be joining Justice Ginsburg in the panic room post-Hobby Lobby; and, second, acknowledging the "nerve" that Justice Ginsburg and her compatriots are plucking when they raise the prospect of women's loss of control over sex and pregnancy.

Why Women Aren't Panicked

Justice Ginsburg, like so many feminist activists of her generation, has a tendency to claim to speak for all women when she frames a grievance on women's behalf. But relatively few women are actually affected by the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby. Poor women, and even women at several times the poverty level, already have free or subsidized birth control available from the state. Since 1970, they have been served by the National Family Planning Program ("Title X"). In 2010, Title X-funded sites served more than five million patients-69 percent at or below the poverty level and 31 percent above-at 4,389 service sites across all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Likewise, both Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid) and Title XX of the Social Security Act provide federal funds to states for pregnancy prevention services available to both adolescents and adults. The federal Maternal and Child Health Block Grant funds 610 school-based or school-linked health clinics. In 2012, Planned Parenthood Federation of America alone received $540 million of government grants and reimbursements directed largely to providing lower-cost contraception. Then there is all the funding for low-cost Community Health Centers provided via the Affordable Care Act.

Also, generally speaking, the Centers for Disease Control report that cost does not even make the list of "frequently cited reasons for nonuse" among the 11 percent of sexually active women not using contraception. …

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