Awareness, Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 07/4/2014

What Young Feminists Need To Know About The Hobby Lobby Ruling

As a rising college senior, I’ve already been inundated with cautionary tales of being female while working in corporate America. Now, thanks to the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, my generation of women can add potentially working for companies whose rights are valued above our own and the blatant undermining of our health and reproductive freedom to the list of our future professional rewards.

Monday’s Hobby Lobby ruling solidifies the reality of the war on women in this country, indisputably highlighting the way in which sexism is still rampant in American society in several ways.

First and foremost, the decision reveals that persistent, blatant ignorance about women’s bodies has infiltrated the law of the land. The Hobby Lobby suit incorrectly conflates birth control with pregnancy termination by objecting to insurance coverage of IUDs and morning-after pills on the grounds that they are equitable to abortion (a notion scientists have clearly disproven). This conflation ironically ignores the evidence showing that access to birth control actually reduces abortion rates and ignorantly overlooks the fact that birth control is not only used for preventing pregnancy, but also for many medical conditions, such as endometriosis, PCOS, amenorrhea and beyond.

Beyond medical ignorance of women’s bodies, this ruling also indicates a willfully sexist desire to control women’s sexuality. As Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti points out, “The underlying values that drove this company to sue – and spurred a national debate – is the belief that women having pre-marital or non-procreative sex is wrong.” Essentially all sexually active American women have used birth control at some point in their lives for reasons that may include treatment for medical conditions, but also, importantly, in order to have safe and responsible sex – a choice that, in this day and age, should be completely acceptable in and of itself. The double standard of this ruling is made especially clear by the fact that Viagra and vasectomies are still covered under these policies: thus, women’s sexuality under this policy is subject to control while men’s sexuality is facilitated.

In addition to ignorance about and paternalistic attitudes towards women’s bodies, Hobby Lobby fails to recognize the reality of many American women’s lived experiences. The ruling – hardly for the first time in American history –essentially privileges the rights of corporate elites over low-income individuals. A 2013 report on contraception found that access to birth control is “uneven and unequal” amongst “economically disadvantaged or otherwise marginalized” women in the United States. Ruth Bader Ginsberg highlighted this point in her dissent, stating “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Furthermore, access to family planning has been found to be economically advantageous for everyone, while barred access to family planning and subsequent unplanned pregnancies amongst low income women often further push them into poverty. And yet the religious beliefs of personified corporations have been deemed more important than preventing further poverty amongst low-income women.

As millennials, it’s difficult to read headlines that sound more like dystopian horror than reality and watch ignorant, regressive sexism become further ingrained in this country and still feel hopeful about the future we’re inheriting. But we have to fight back and have the power to do so: The millennial generation, which comprised 19 percent of the American electorate in 2012, is one of the most diverse ever as well as potentially the most progressive and supportive of equality. We must loudly vocalize these beliefs – through social media, petitions, in our daily lives and beyond — and put them to action by voting for candidates who support them. Ultimately, it’s up to our generation to show the conservative base that supports this decision that their ability to shape this country based on ignorance and privilege is coming to an end.

A version of this article was originally posted on Forbes.

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  • Mary Kay Blakely @ at 10:52 am, July 12th, 2014

    Fantastic summary … the millennials can count on strong support from whole generations of women before them who’ve been pushing for women’s equality. It’s never over!

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