WASHINGTON – In a 5-4 decision, The Supreme Court today agreed with the plaintiffs in the landmark case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. As was expected, they decided that businesses could, for religious reasons, refuse to pay for employee contraceptive coverage as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. What was not expected was their choice to also exempt corporations from paying for “mammograms, pap smears, and other female-oriented procedures.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito explained the need to treat the corporations in the case as human beings. “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends,” he wrote. “One would not expect a male human being to need to pay for a female-oriented procedure, so one cannot expect a corporation- which is intrinsically male- to do so either.”
Alito went on to emphasize that this decision should not be considered wide-ranging. “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests,” he wrote. “For example, the interests of non-female individuals, which would need to be weighed more carefully than the female-only interests at stake in this case.”
“In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in his concurrent opinion. “The Court finds that the freedom of a woman to be properly screened for breast cancer or to control their own uterus interferes with the freedom of a male-owned corporation to believe such treatment to be uncomfortable, unattractive, or downright gross.”
“That the five male justices who have decided this case would perhaps have found differently had the case involved penile-enhancement treatment or male sexual-enhancement drugs rather than procedures and medication used by females is telling,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbnerg for the dissent along with fellow female Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and non-female Justice Stephen Breyer. “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives. This ruling is nothing but a raised middle finger to that equality.”
Added Justice Sotomayor, “I know five Supreme Court Justices who won’t be getting any for a long time.”