My Turn: Hobby Lobby ruling a threat to women’s health care
Too many women across New Hampshire are facing a new threat to their health care: Their employers can now deny coverage for birth control.
That’s the immediate impact of the Supreme Court decision a few days ago in what’s called the “Hobby Lobby” case. The court’s decision allows certain employers to deny health insurance coverage for health care services – like contraception – that they find objectionable based on their religious beliefs.
I disagree strongly with the court’s decision, and I’m going to work with my Senate colleagues to take action that will protect women’s access to birth control and other health care services.
Women should be making decisions about their health care with their doctors, not their employers. The Supreme Court decision jeopardizes access to contraception for countless women. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in writing the dissenting opinion, concluded that this decision “would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”
That’s not right.
And we don’t yet know the full impact of the decision. Justice Ginsburg clearly expressed the danger that employers with different views could refuse a wide range of health care services.
In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg asked, “Would the exemption . . . 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(?)….”
In 1999, when I was governor, I was proud to sign a law in New Hampshire requiring insurance companies to cover contraception. It had broad bipartisan support and passed in the House with votes from 121 Democrats and 120 Republicans. And for more than a decade, without any controversy, this law protected women’s access to contraception.
Unfortunately, in the past several years, New Hampshire’s commonsense way to protect women’s health has been threatened. Blocking access to contraception will have negative economic and public health effects our country cannot afford.
Medical experts have directly linked contraceptive use to declining rates in maternal and infant mortality, reduced risk of ovarian cancer and better overall health for women – not to mention far fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions. Those are goals we can all support.
I have worked for more than two decades to protect women’s rights and expand access to affordable health care, including birth control. And I believe strongly that every woman deserves the right to make her own private medical decisions without interference from anyone – not her boss, not politicians and not the Supreme Court. I will keep working and fighting to protect these rights and make sure women can get the health care they need.