On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be looking at the fallout from the Supreme Court’s ridiculous and transparent attempt to force women to include their boss’s opinion in their contraception choices. I’ll also have a representative from the Center for Inquiry on to talk about the role that secularism plays in pushing for better health-care access.
Most of this episode will about the Hobby Lobby decision from the perspective of concerns about women’s rights and health care access. However, John Oliver also addressed the problem of the Court giving corporations the same or greater rights than actual people.
- oliver *
He also goes on to point out that people who kill others get to go to prison, while corporations just get fined. Corporations were created as institutions precisely to limit liability in a way a person can’t. Giving them even more rights is about taking rights away from actual people.
So, Hobby Lobby. I was off last week, but make no mistake, I was watching very carefully as the fallout started and just got worse and worse by the minute. As usual, Rachel Maddow had a really good segment on it, pointing out that the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Hobby Lobby to opt out of offering health insurance plans that cover contraception is not really about a sober-minded reading of the Constitution or even the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It’s actually just a bit of conservative sex panic and misogyny that failed in the legislature, due to most of the country not actually believing that all women should abstain from all non-procreative sex. Republicans pushed for something called the Blunt Amendment that would allow corporations to do just this, and it failed and arguably hurt Mitt Romney’s chances at beating Barack Obama in the 2012 election. But the Supreme Court stepped in.
- hobby 1 *
What became immediately apparent both in the decision and in the reaction to it, which I will get to in the next segment, is that “religious freedom” is clearly just a fig leaf for the real agenda here, which is hostility to female sexuality and an attempt to control and punish women who have non-procreative sex, which is, may I remind you, nearly all adult women. [Justice] Alito specifically claimed in his decision that contraception was some kind of special case and that religious claims to be offended by vaccinations or blood transfusions shouldn’t count. Why is contraception special? The official reason is that there’s a way for the [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] to make sure women are covered even without their employers directly providing plans for that, but it turns out that was, to be blunt, a bad faith argument. Let’s face it: The reason contraception was singled out is because of plain, old-fashioned misogyny and panic from conservative judges at women’s growing social and political power, power that could easily be reversed by returning us to the days when controlling childbirth was nearly impossible.
The lawyers for Hobby Lobby pushed for a very narrow exemption, arguing only against four kinds of contraception that they said cause “abortion,” though they do not. But the court dispensed with the B.S. arguments where we have to pretend someone thinks some kinds of contraception “kill” fertilized eggs and straight up said this decision includes all contraception.
- hobby 2 *
So when you see conservatives whip out the talking point about how “you”—and they seem to think everyone works for Hobby Lobby now for some reason—will still have access to 16 kinds of contraception, let’s be clear that is a lie. I mean, you probably will, since they forget a lot of us do not have misogynist employers who are going to cut our contraception coverage. But for those of us who do, the Court was clear: They can deny you any kind of coverage they want, as long as it’s contraception. No having to pretend they think it’s abortion necessary. No more need for anti-choice hand-waving equating contraception with abortion. The highest court in the land says just being angry at women for having unapproved sex is reason enough to dock their pay now.
Of course, the one silver lining in this was that while it did give an employer a right to dock your compensation package with their little sex fines, there is a path for the HHS to keep it from hitting your wallet. They could just allow corporations the right to fill out the same form that nonprofits use to say they don’t want to cover contraception, and when they fill that form out, the insurance company will simply step in and provide the coverage directly. But, anti-choicers have got a plan to stop that as well and it looks like the Supreme Court may back them up on this.
- hobby 3 *
Look, if you have a religious objection to a law, it is not a violation of your religious rights to say so. This is just a bunch of squealing and hand-waving to accomplish the only real goal of all this, which is to give your boss the right to block your access to contraception. Sure, you can still pay cash, but the aggressive bad faith of this paperwork argument should make us all worry that the next move will be to sue to block employees from spending their paychecks in ways that their bosses disapprove of. Indeed, Wheaton didn’t even really hide that they were arguing that their female employees and students are functionally their property and should be forced by any means necessary to live by their rules. The lawyer for Wheaton kept claiming the form was a “permission slip” to use contraception, as if adult women should be treated like children and their boss like a parent who forbids them from leaving the house after 9 p.m. This is a dangerous precedent and suggests we may be seeing that women are increasingly going to have to give control of their private sexual and reproductive decisions to their bosses in order to earn a paycheck.
While the official reason for Hobby Lobby’s objection to having contraception coverage in their health care plans was “religious freedom,” the right-wing media coverage of the decision, along with the reaction of conservatives online, made it undeniably clear that this is actually about hatred of female independence and fear of female sexuality. Right-wing media focused solely on shaming and marginalizing women, who are more than half the human population, for having entirely human and normal desires to have sex. Indeed, even though married women are actually more likely than single women to use prescription contraception, the focus was strictly on raising audience fears about the supposedly slutty single women out there. Jesse Watters, one of Fox News’s growing bench of guys that are there just to say mean-spirited things, had this to say in response to Hillary Clinton criticizing the decision.
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Man, Fox News loves to lie to its audience, doesn’t it? First of all, this decision is not about government-supplied contraception, but about women getting the pay they earned by working, which includes standard insurance benefits. But Watters doesn’t seem to quite get that women work for a living. He portrays women as being dependent on either a husband or government. That’s not what this is about. Indeed, I’d say that this is actually about increasing anger at women because we work for a living and don’t need a husband to depend on. That’s threatening to a lot of men, because if women don’t need a husband to survive, then we can have higher standards when it comes to getting married. We don’t have to settle for someone who thinks that women are an unpaid servant class put here to put up with their crap, and we can hold out for men who are more interested in equal partnerships. For a lot of conservative men who grew up thinking that they are entitled, by birthright, to have a wife who is subservient and dependent, this dramatic expansion of women’s independence is a real threat. So that’s what’s going on here.
But this kind of misogyny actually seems downright mild compared to what you had going on, of course, on Rush Limbaugh’s show, with Limbaugh completely denying outright that we even need contraception at all, because women should simply have sex no more times than they need to get pregnant.
- fail 2 *
As long as I’ve been running this podcast, I’ve warned that the anti-choice movement angled to create the illusion that non-procreative sex in and of itself is controversial and that they wanted to introduce the idea that debating whether or not women should be allowed to have non-procreative sex is legitimate political discourse. Looks like they’re starting to get their way. This is where we’re at, with major conservative figures arguing openly that you should only have sex if you want to get pregnant, and suggesting, of course, that wanting to have sex for fun is a sleazy and despicable thing that only horrible perverts and criminals would want.
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Again, it’s critical to remember that the whole purpose of the contraception mandate was to avoid having the taxpayers cover this and instead to have gainfully employed women able to pay for their own birth control using insurance plans they earned through working. Indeed, the only way this is even remotely close to the truth is there is a sliver of truth to the idea that men don’t have to pay because women are footing the bill themselves entirely by working for the plans that cover it. But that really is okay insofar as the main thing is finding the most efficient and cost-effective way to get coverage to as many women as possible, and this is it. But I want to point out that the anger at women for having sex is not actually aimed just at women. A lot of these kinds of rants are aimed at men, at least some kind of men. The implicit argument here is, “All this birth control means that all those hot young women are going to hook up with hot young men and have all this fun that you, the Limbaugh listener, are not invited to join. Don’t you hate them? Let’s punish them and take away their earned benefits!” It’s pure politics of resentment, taken to the bedroom. I mean, it always was, but now the mask is falling off.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, let’s use as many sexist stereotypes as we can edition. Greg Gutfeld used the anger at response to the Hobby Lobby case as an excuse to accuse women who speak out of being a whole host of misogynist stereotypes.
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There’s something incredibly rich about this. Conservatives are the ones who are accusing the 99 percent of Americans who have sex of being perverts, are claiming that merely filling out a form that might make it easier for a woman to meet her private medical needs is somehow a violation of religious freedom, are screeching “close your legs” at anyone who dare speak up for sense on Twitter, are arguing that preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg is tantamount to murder and the Holocaust. But it’s feminists who want women to get the health care they paid for who are “shrieking.” Yeah, right. Sounds like projection to me, Greg.