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Your Boss and Your Womb: A Weird Marriage of Plutocracy and Theocracy

The Supreme Court majority, five old guys I’ll refer to hereon interchangeably as “The Supremes” or “The Five Meanies,” are creating odd news bites that’re making headlines right up there with rouge squatting nannies, “cannibal cops” and rehashes of decades-old Bill Clinton sex scandals. This week it’s the court ordered triumph of corporate persons, the court’s own bastard creation, over woman persons, like your mom, sisters or selves. The law of the land now states that your corporate person boss, in the form of a “closely held” corporate entity, and even your person person boss, has legal rights governing your gynecological options—specifically what types of birth control, if any, your health plan will allow.

The most visible plaintiff is the Hobby Lobby big box corporate person entity controlled mostly by the Green family of Kansas, but also includes fellow travelers flying under the radar such as Eden Foods, which is best known for peddling organic soy products to hippies and hipsters. In their filings with the court, the Eden Foods corporate entity states that “these [birth control] procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.”

The Greens are less vague, stating simply that they are against abortion, and contrary to medical and legal definitions, they misidentify two types of I.U.D.s and two types of emergency contraception pills, such as those commonly prescribed for rape victims, as abortifacients. I.U.D.s are an old school technology that prevents sperm cells from reaching and fertilizing eggs. Technically, abstinence does the same thing, but without the fun and passion of sex, or the ire of religious fundementalists.

Since the abolition of slavery, the legal structure by which a corporation could actually own a person, there’s no legally binding structure that I am aware of whereby an employer can legally prohibit an employee from having an abortion, eating a Big Mac, or watching bad movies—though of course employers often don’t need reasons for firing someone. In the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Samuel Alito, speaking for the Five Meanie majority, argued that the plaintiffs have religious objections to abortions, which are in fact not covered by the health plans in question, and “according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”

So, while we’re not talking about abortion per se, and the four contraceptive methods at the core of this case are not medically recognized abortifacients anyway, the Supreme’s ruling gives an employer the religious “right” to redefine medical reality, and control employee access to medical procedures based on this delusional interpretation. This sloppy hack job of a ruling opens the door to all sorts of chaos as other employers sanctify their own delusions and issue edicts governing employees accordingly.

The Hobby Lobby Greens argue that they simply don’t want to facilitate what they think is abortion, and paying for health insurance that covers birth control would be such a facilitation, even though health insurance, like a paycheck, is part of a compensation package that employees buy with their time and labor. The Greens aren’t giving them anything. And even if they were, insurance companies generally aren’t charging extra to add birth control to policies as it saves them money down the road. On many levels the “facilitation” argument is faulty. This is clearly a prohibition and an intrusion into an employee’s intimate private life.

But still, I’ll take the Greens at their word—they mean well, in their odd way. They seem like nice people driven by a strong moral compass, even if it’s quite different from my own. The difference between us, however, is that while perhaps I proselytize, I don’t impose my compass, my beliefs, my politics or my religion on others. And that’s really what this case is about. Under the guise of “liberty,” The Five Meanies have taken away the liberty of employees to exercise their rights to control their own health care. These are not just their civil rights, but rights that they literally earned as laborers.

In contrast to right wing lore, these rights were originally protected by the Affordable Care Act, and in the end taken away by five mean old men masquerading as conservatives. Of course there’s really nothing conservative about imposing one person’s religious beliefs on another—or poking around in a uterus where you don’t belong. That’s theocracy. And as is often the case with theocracy, misogyny isn’t far away. Since many poor and working women can’t access birth control without insurance coverage, this ruling, which incidentally was opposed by all three women on the bench, attacks a core right that women won a century ago—the right to control their own reproductive cycles.

On a deeper level, the court has once again elevated the status of corporate persons, or paper Frankensteins, to above that of living breathing women. If the corporate person has more rights than a female gendered person, is it growing a gender of its own? If this court continues at this pace, it will roll our rights back to the 19th Century. The US Senate that Americans elect this November will shape the Supreme Court for a generation to come. Think about that. What are your plans for the next few months?

Dr. Michael I. Niman is a professor of journalism and media studies at SUNY Buffalo State. His previous columns are at artvoice.com, archived at www.mediastudy.com, and available globally through syndication.

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