American women were dealt a huge blow today when the Supreme Court ruled that two for-profit companies with “sincerely held religious beliefs” do not have to cover the cost of contraceptives for their employees. The decision is a victory for the owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, but will surely be a blow to their female employees who will now have to pay for contraception out of their own pocket. Plus, crafty feminists all over America are now wondering where they’ll buy their reasonably priced yarn and rubber stamps.
The Court’s decision is terrible, but for women, this is nothing new. Religion is one of many barriers women face in accessing contraception. In the U.S. and abroad, there is still stigma around contraception, and some women keep their birth control a secret from husbands or partners who oppose it on moral or religious grounds. At PAI, we think birth control is the right of every woman—and no one else’s business. It’s a shame the Supreme Court doesn’t agree, and instead the Court reinforced another barrier to access for American women.
For women in developing countries, these barriers are routine. In many areas, family planning clinics are run by religious organizations. Some offer a full array of contraceptive methods and reproductive care, and some do not because of their religious beliefs. It’s deplorable that a woman might walk for miles to a clinic, or scrimp and save to afford the method she needs, and when she finally makes it to the clinic, there’s another barrier—someone else’s religion—standing in her way.