Access Denied: The Religious Right Opens Up a New Front on Its War Against Birth Control
Some commentators continue to insist that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was no big deal. It’s a narrow ruling, they insist, and there are other ways to ensure that women can get access to birth control.
Birth control is a vital component of women’s health, and I find it disturbing that so many people are blithely dismissing a high court ruling that has the potential to curtail access to millions of women. Yes, generic birth control pills are cheap, but not all women can use generics. In fact, not all women can or want to use birth control pills. Other options, such as IUDs, sterilizing operations and cervical caps, tend to be more expensive.
More to the point, the legal argument buttressing this supposedly “narrow” ruling is already spurring Religious Right groups to ramp up their increasingly aggressive war against access to birth control.
Consider this case from Florida: A woman named Sara Hellwege is in federal court suing Tampa Family Health Centers (TFHC) after the facility refused to hire her as a nurse midwife. Officials at TFHC had at first expressed some interest in bringing Hellwege on staff but changed their minds after learning that she would refuse to provide any form of hormonal contraceptives to clients.
Hormonal contraceptives include some of the most common types - birth control pills, patches, implants and vaginal rings. TFHC serves a primarily low-income population; many of the women who patronize the clinic come there for birth control. And if Hellwege had been on duty, they would not have been able to get most forms of it.
In short, Hellwege admitted upfront that she was not willing to do a good percentage of this job. The clinic, quite naturally, declined to hire her because she doesn’t actually want to perform many of the tasks they need done. According to Hellwege and her attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), she is a victim of religious discrimination!