Monday’s Supreme Court decisions in Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn threaten women’s right to participate equally in the workplace
By Michelle D. Schwartz,
AFJ Director of Justice Programs
It’s probably fair to speculate that the vast majority of the 60,000 SCOTUSblog readers Monday morning were there to see what happened in Hobby Lobby—the Affordable Care Act contraception case—and that most casual Supreme Court observers have at most a passing awareness that the Court also decided a major union case, Harris v. Quinn. There are many reasons why we all should pay attention to Harris v. Quinn, but here I will focus on just one that is at the heart of both Hobby Lobby and Harris: In both cases, a majority of five men led by Justice Alito put at risk women’s ability to participate fully and equally in the modern American workforce.
The availability, accessibility, and affordability of contraceptive care are critical to women’s ability to excel and compete in the workplace. Planned Parenthood has demonstrated that birth control has led to dramatically increased workplace participation, higher college graduation rates, and better wages for women. Furthermore, contraceptive coverage is a benefit women have earned—and paid for. As Gretchen Borchelt of the National Women’s Law Center wrote on this page in March:
[I]t’s actually women workers who are paying for this benefit. Health insurance is part of an employee’s compensation—women pay with their labor and through the premium they contribute for their health insurance. A woman worker is entitled to all of the preventive services without cost-sharing, as guaranteed by the law. She deserves to be able to meet her health care needs through her regular insurance plan, just as she accesses other health care benefits, and just as men are able to access the health care they need. This critical health care service—which 99% of women have used at one point in their lives—should not be carved out just because her employer objects to it. Read more