By Sarah Hogg, Advocacy & Communications intern. Contact her @SarahLovely or e-mail her here.
“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
In less than one week, the Supreme Court has succeeded in alienating millions of women across Virginia & the United States. Over the past week, the highest court in America handed down two extreme anti-choice decisions that violate women’s authority over their decisions and treat women’s bodies as a nothing more than a battleground to be legislated upon. On Thursday, the court voted unanimously to strike down the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which protected women against threatening protesters outside of abortion clinics. The court said that this law violated pro-life Americans’ free speech to “counsel” women on sidewalks about abortion. As if that ruling wasn’t enough, on Monday the court decided in a 5-4 vote to side with Hobby Lobby in what was arguably one of the most closely-watched Supreme Court cases of the term. The ruling allows for-profit “closely-held” corporations to interfere with their women employees’ access to birth control, giving more rights to corporations than to women.
Both the buffer zone ruling and the Hobby Lobby ruling are heinous infringements upon women’s rights. Having worked at a Planned Parenthood myself, I have firsthand experience of just how damaging anti-choice protesters can be. On any given day, there were at least 5-10 protesters outside of our clinic—and let me tell you, they were not peacefully “counseling” the women that came inside. Luckily, my clinic had a private property line that protesters could not cross, but many clinics across the United States are not so lucky. Despite the private property line, the protesters still had a massive impact on the patients. They stood on the sidewalk outside of the clinic and held massive, disgusting signs of what they claimed were aborted fetuses. They rushed at women turning into the clinic and thrust information through car windows. They shouted at women walking to the parking lot into the clinic about how they were murdering children and how they would always regret this decision. Women would walk into the lobby of our clinic agitated, angry, scared, and intimidated, terrorized by the protesters who were only trying to “peacefully counsel” them. The Supreme Court’s ruling against buffer zones endangers women, plain and simple. If the Supreme Court is allowed to maintain a 200-foot buffer zone, why can’t women be afforded a fraction of that same right?
The buffer zone law was one blow; one that the pro-choice community hoped would be the only anti-choice decision of this term. Then, the Hobby Lobby ruling delivered another huge blow for women’s bodily autonomy. At it’s most fundamental, the Hobby Lobby opinion is nothing short of legalized sexism. Although the Court concludes that private, for-profit corporations can refuse to provide contraception to it’s employees, it clearly states that the opinion should not apply to blood transfusions or vaccines — all things other religious corporations may find issue with. How is it that something 99% of women will use in their lifetimes is fair ground for restriction…but everything else is not?
Furthermore, while Hobby Lobby denies birth control coverage to its women employees, it still covers several forms of reproductive health care for men, including Viagra and vasectomies. The fact that all of the women on the Supreme Court dissented in this decision is only further proof of discrimination—women now have limited access to birth control if their bosses object to it because five male justices on the Supreme Court voted in Hobby Lobby’s favor. Once again, men are the ones making the decisions about women’s bodies.
It is absolutely deplorable that we are living in the 21st century and still dealing with not only restricted access to abortions, but now also restricted access to birth control. It is unconscionable that women cannot be afforded protection from highly damaging verbal attacks outside of abortion clinics. The Supreme Court has sunk to a new low, and the women on the court know it, especially Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who penned the quote at the beginning of this article in her scathing 35-page dissent to the Hobby Lobby ruling. This week marks the beginning of what may be a slippery slope for the rights of targeted and oppressed groups across America. If the Supreme Court can legalize sexism, what else can they do? What is next? The answer to that question is certainly terrifying, but as pro-choice, feminist activists we must continue to push forward. While we may have lost two battles this week, the war is far from over.