It's not a bad dream, an Onion article, or some kind of lame joke: The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled this week that some bosses can make your birth control decisions for you.
In fact, the Hobby Lobby ruling was a huge slap in the face to women and moms.
Why moms, you might ask. Well, guess who uses birth control? Moms use birth control. That's right, contrary to public discussion, 99 percent of women, including moms, use birth control at some point in their lives.
(Side note: The average family size would be much, much larger than two children if most moms weren't using birth control!)
Reliable birth control that permits women to manage how many children to have, and when to have them, has been nothing short of revolutionary -- not just for women and mothers, but for our country as a whole. It's improved the health of women and their families, as well as given women and mothers increased access to economic and political power unlike any other time in history.
What's at stake is tremendous: Women's and mothers' self-determination, economic security, health, personal freedom, and the ability to, for example, get an education and/or to start a career prior to having children.
And what was at risk in this case was whether for-profit corporations get to decide what health decisions and medications, including contraceptive care, workers can choose under their healthcare plans based on the religious beliefs of employers (and not of employees)!
Frankly, your boss shouldn't be able to decide what kind of birth control coverage you can access. This is a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor.
Empowering corporate CEOs to deny coverage of health benefits at their whim as the U.S. Supreme Court did this week is a major step backward.
As Justice Ginsberg said in her dissent:
"Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives 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 (Christian Scientists, among others)?"
And, here's the elephant in the living room: Becoming a mother and controlling how many children you have is a big deal. A really big deal. Mothers, more than other women, face significant economic barriers and still struggle for social, economic, and political equality.
In fact, right now being a mom is a greater predictor of wage and hiring discrimination than being a woman.
And yes, for those who are still doubting, birth control really does matter to moms. The economic security and health of mothers and families across our nation are dependent on mothers' ability to control how many children to have, and when to have them -- and it's her right to choose how to do so, not her employer's.
For too many, even the birth of a healthy baby can be the catalyst for a poverty spell -- particularly if the mom is an hourly worker without access to paid leave family leave. In fact, two-thirds of hourly workers are women, many are moms -- and having a baby is a leading cause of poverty spells.
That's not right and it's not fair.
Frankly, just providing the basics for one child requires a lot of money. For example, just a year of childcare now costs more than college in most states! In fact, in 2010 it cost $226,920 on average for a middle-income, two-parent family to raise one child from birth to age 18. That's not including college.
Further, the U.S. lags behind the modern workforce, which is now 50 percent women for the first time in history, and behind most other nations, in terms of having basic workplace protections in place like access to paid family leave (maternity/paternity leave) after the birth of a new child (Over 177 other countries offer this basic protection but the U.S. doesn't).
This has major negative impacts: Nakeshia, a MomsRising member, recently shared: "I am 2 1/2 months pregnant and have already started fretting about maternity leave. Not only will I not be paid for the time off, but due to my loss of income I will have to un-enroll my 4-year-old from childcare because we won't have the money."
Nakeshia isn't alone. Only 5 percent of low-wage workers have access to paid family leave after a new baby arrives, and only 12 percent of all people in the U.S. have some form of paid family leave after a new baby arrives provided by their employer.
Similarly, over 160 other countries offer the basic protection of a guaranteed number of paid sick days, but the U.S. lags behind here as well.
Barbara, a MomsRising member, shared: "I didn't have paid sick days so I had to postpone taking my kids to the doctor. One time, this resulted in my daughter having a serious untreated ear infection that harmed her hearing."
Barbara is not alone either. Right now in the U.S. 80 percent of low-wage workers don't have access to a single paid sick day. However, the exact opposite is happening with high wage workers. Eighty percent of high-wage workers do have paid sick days.
Basic workplace protections are all too often entirely missing for moms and for all workers in low-wage jobs. And there are far more women working in low-wage jobs than high. In fact, fewer than 9 percent of working women make over $74,000 per year.
The double whammy is that childcare now costs more than college in most states. A triple whammy is adding on the cost of birth control options.
It should be noted that studies show moving forward these workplace protection policies like paid family leave, sick days, and affordable childcare help boost businesses bottom lines by increasing employee performance and retention, save taxpayer dollars due to a lower need for government entitlement programs, help parents keep their jobs, help lower the wage gap between women and men, and help boost the economy overall.
It's a win, win, win, win.
Plus, moving forward these workplace protections is the right thing to do for our children and our families.
Ironically, the Hobby Lobby has recently been called out for not having these basic workplace protections like paid family leave for their employees either.
Yet the Hobby Lobby stills want to deny people the right to choose how to manage how many children to have and when to have them.
It's time to push forward policies like paid family leave, affordable childcare, fair pay, and access to sick days to boost our economy and our families. And this push back against access to birth control has got to stop.
Birth control is a vital part of women's healthcare and is covered by health plans without co-pays or deductibles under the regulations implementing the Affordable Care Act, allowing a woman and her doctor -- not her boss or Washington, D.C., politicians -- to decide what's best.
Bosses shouldn't be able to make birth control decisions for you. MomsRising is calling on Congress to fix the problem created by the U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision and you can too: http://action.momsrising.org/letter/FixHobbyLobbySCRuling/
America is just waking up to the fact that women are 50 percent of the labor force for the first time in history, and we need to update our outdated workplace policies to match our modern labor force and to build a vibrant economy. It's time to move forward, not backwards for the good of our economy and our families.
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