Those who think that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell will not have a substantial effect on women are misguided. Thousands of New Hampshire women could go to work tomorrow only to find out their employers have canceled their contraceptive coverage and now are not covering contraception of any kind. The cost will either be shifted on to those women and their families, or they will be forced to change their medical care.
But beyond the cost to your wallet, imagine if you walked into work and your boss told you the prescription medication that greatly improved your life would no longer be available. What would your first thought be? What would you do? What right does any employer have to interfere in an individual's medical decision?
The Court's decision in favor of Hobby Lobby says that corporations now have more rights than women. Giving a business the ability to determine what is right for their female employees is simply wrong, as this sort of invasion of personal freedoms may open the doors for other objections that prevent employees from receiving the coverage they deserve. In her dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, "Would the exemption ... extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations ..."
What the Court has allowed businesses to do will put a large number of women at risk, as a lack of contraceptive care leads to increased ovarian cancer rates as well as higher maternal and child death rates. This issue has been twisted into a political debate over the rights of corporations, not what it should be and is, which is a woman's rights issue. Women are being singled out for contraceptive use, something that 99 percent of us take at some point in our lives.
From a purely economic standpoint, denying contraceptive care will boost out-of-pocket expenses for employers. Those businesses that do not provide contraceptive coverage to their female employees have to pay 15 to 17 percent more than those who do. This is because those companies who will not cover contraceptives pay much more in pregnancy costs and reduced productivity. In addition, one study showed that for every dollar invested in contraceptives, $4.26 is saved. So, even if companies want to put the basic rights of their female employees aside, they should consider the economic benefits that come with providing contraceptive coverage.
In the midst of this debate, we have seen two varying options. Scott Brown, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who announced his candidacy just months after moving here, believes that the court made the right decision ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, saying that he believes women should not have a say in their health care decisions. This comes as no surprise, as he strongly supported the Blunt amendment, legislation that would prevent female employees from getting coverage for things like birth control and even mammograms.
Then there is Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has been a consistent advocate for New Hampshire women for more than two decades. As governor in 1999, she signed into law a bill that mandated employer insurance cover contraceptive medicine. It had broad bipartisan support from conservative Republicans like Senate President Chuck Morse and Minority Leader Gene Chandler. Sen. Shaheen knows that women deserve the ultimate say when it comes to their health care decisions, not the business they work for. She will continue to fight for women, and will not stand idly by while people like Scott Brown try to reduce women's freedoms.