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William Rivers Pitt | Land of the Free, Unless You’re a Woman
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

William Rivers Pitt | Land of the Free, Unless You’re a Woman

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The flags are fluttering, the backyard barbecues are blazing, and the Souza marches will strut into the sky to greet the grand thudding starbursts of fireworks. It is the Fourth of July in these United States, our annual national celebration of freedom.

What a sad joke.

Not long ago, five men on the Supreme Court handed down their decision in the already-infamous Hobby Lobby case. In it, they ruled that the owners of “closely-held” companies with “sincere religious beliefs” can deny medical coverage for certain forms of contraception, if such forms of contraception go against those religious beliefs.

The immediate talking point deployed by those in favor of the ruling claimed that only forms of contraception such as the “morning-after pill” and the IUD are affected by this ruling, but the Justices weren’t done yet. According to the Associated Press, “The Supreme Court has left in place lower court rulings in favor of businesses that object to covering all methods of government-approved contraception. The justices’ action Tuesday is a strong indication that their decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the four pregnancy prevention methods and devices that the court considered in its ruling.”

The high court’s male majority went to elaborate lengths to explain that their decision was limited and narrowly construed, but don’t tell that to the nearly 100 other companies that intend to deny these medical services to their own employees:

Monday’s Supreme Court decision in favor of the company and Conestoga Wood of Pennsylvania for refusing to pay for contraception in health insurance affects far more than the 15,000 employees between them. The Supreme Court’s decision allows closely held companies (corporations with more than 50 percent of stock owned by five or fewer individuals) to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. There are at least 80 other companies fighting to be the next Hobby Lobby.

If they do, the national implications would be huge. Despite what “closely held company” sounds like, these aren’t all small, family-owned businesses. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, candymaker Mars Inc., with 70,000 employees, qualifies as a closely held company. Cargill does too and it takes in more than $136 billion in annual revenue.

It took just about 48 hours for the petentrating concerns raised in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent to flower: “On Tuesday, the Court indicated that its ruling applies to for-profit employers who object to all twenty forms of birth control included in the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, not just the four methods at issue in the two cases decided on Monday. It’s bad enough that the Court privileged the belief that IUDs and emergency contraceptives induce abortion over the scientific evidence that clearly says otherwise. With Tuesday’s orders, the conservative majority has effectively endorsed the idea that religious objections to insurance that covers any form of preventative healthcare for women have merit.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito bent logic into bold new shapes by claiming that this ruling actually serves to protect the rights of individuals, and that the entire concept of “corporate personhood” is intended to protect the rights of the employees of corporations. Actor and activist George Takei, however, was having none of it: “In this case, the owners happen to be deeply Christian; one wonders whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.”

The decision in the Hobby Lobby case is many things. It is the continued elevation of Christianity over all other religions, and over the choice to hold no religion, in a country where no single religion is supposed to hold sway. It is yet another flat declaration that corporations have more rights than people. It is a purely political action to strike a blow against the Affordable Care Act, the right’s most beloved boogeyman. It is a very sneaky back door through which alleged “people of faith” can peddle their onging discrimination against LGBT employees.

And, of course, it is simple, old-fashioned woman-hating from top to bottom.

It is another jarring attempt to remake the United States according to the opinions of men like Utah’s Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who agrees with the court’s decision because women only use contraception for “recreational behavior,” and not for significant and pressing medical reasons or motivations of personal freedom. It is an attempt to remake the United States according to the opinions of men like Washington Post columnist George Will, who recently argued that women on college campuses only cry “rape” because they want the “coveted status” of being a rape survivor.

Two years ago, Cecily McMillan was participating in a peaceful Occupy protest in New York City when a police officer came up behind her and grabbed her violently by the breast. Like any normal woman, McMillan threw an elbow to stop the assault. For this, she was convicted of assaulting a police officer and sentenced to 90 days at Rikers Island. It could have been seven years.

McMillan was recently released, and gave a harrowing description of the conditions she and the other women incarcerated at at Rikers endured: women dying, women bleeding vaginally for hours, women with cancer, diabetes and other ailments who were denied medical treatment while being stacked like so much cord wood in overcrowded bunk rooms.

McMillan is free now, but still in jail, incarcerated with every other woman in the Rikers Island that is these United States, thanks to the five men who handed down the Hobby Lobby decision. The food is better, and there are no bars on the doors, but it is a prison nonetheless, where women do not enjoy equal status, where women can and will be denied basic and necessary medical services, because somebody’s bastardized version of Jesus considers them to be lesser creatures, and not nearly as important as a corporation.

Enjoy your “independence” day.

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