Hobby Lobby, 1 – Women, 0

(This first appeared on Huffington Post)

It is hard not to despair.

A woman entering a clinic for personal healthcare now must wade through potential hordes of obnoxious strangers getting in her face with stuff – often angry stuff, often misinformed and always unrequested. Where is the right to privacy, to lead one’s own life without the interference of obnoxious strangers?

And now, a woman working for Hobby Lobby, or for that matter any other corporation headed by a religious fanatic who believes his employees must submit to his beliefs, can be denied healthcare coverage for the most basic, most personal reasons: the need to control her own body, to make her own reproductive choices and family decisions.

Following the Supreme Court these days is hazardous to one’s health.

But let’s hear it for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg read the riot act to the five men – surprise, surprise, all of them were men – who dealt this latest blow to the women of America.

Saying that religious freedom demands “accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, is likely to wreak havoc. The havoc is only beginning. And only a small part of it will be the suffering of Hobby Lobby employees. No contraceptive coverage, no abortion coverage, no options, and – because we are not talking about rich people here – no justice.

One wonders. Are mandatory burqas next? Stranger things have happened than corporate CEOs whose religious sensibilities are offended by women’s uncovered heads. There are serious concerns that the ruling could lead to other corporations denying coverage for things that bother other religious groups – blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christians Scientists), psychiatric treatment (Scientologists) for example.

Freedom of religion? Bah, humbug, Ginsburg says in so many words. “(Y)our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” She might more properly have said, “where the woman’s uterus begins;” because indeed the religion-guarding gentlemen are swinging directly at women’s guts.

Call it what you will – religious freedom, protecting the unborn, freedom of expression, social conservatism – the denial of women’s rights will always, eventually run up against the voices of women who will not be denied.

Thanks, Justice Ginsburg

Mothers, daughters & Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem (Photo credit: Queen of Planning)

The big guns, gender-neutrally speaking, were all out at the recent DCCC Women’s Power Lunch in San Francisco: former (and this crowd hopes future) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, an assortment of other House members including Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Jackie Speier, honoree Nan Tucker McEvoy and most of everyone who is anyone progressive in Northern California. But MC Gloria Steinem, 78 and proud of it (and looking pretty darned good to this 79-year-old) was still the star.

Steinem spoke with characteristic vigor about women’s rights currently very much in jeopardy, suggesting that many of the country’s economic issues could be solved simply by raising women’s pay to the level of men’s, and that fixing other inequities wouldn’t be a bad idea either. She also homed in on the Republican pledge to overturn both Obamacare and Roe v Wade. If a constitutional amendment were passed declaring the fertilized egg a “person” with full rights, Steinem said, women would not only lose their own rights but face serious endangerment. Such as: a pregnant woman thought to be inclined toward trying to abort could be physically restrained through the remainder of her pregnancy.

In a few poignant moments Steinem spoke to the largely female audience of the special relationships among women — mothers and daughters, sisters, grandchildren. “We are living the lives our mothers coul

d not,” she said, and working to protect the lives of our daughters and granddaughters.

I feel certain that my gentle, righteous mother would not have supported for a moment my being forced to continue an unplanned pregnancy and bring an unwanted child into the world. I hope, partly through my support for women’s rights, my granddaughters will have the right to make their own safe choices.

If Obamacare goes, women lose

Lots of us were disappointed with the healthcare bill: I wanted single payer (but never held my breath about that,) the “death panel” fiasco cost us a critical piece of coverage… but here we are. At least we got a bill.

And “Obamacare” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, has been a boon to women. It’ll be even more so, if the Supreme Court doesn’t send us back to square one. Jessica Arons outlines just a few of the ways the act has benefited women in a recent article for the Center for American Progress.

“Thanks to Obamacare,” Arons writes, “more than 45 million women have already taken advantage of recommended preventive services, including mammograms, pap smears, prenatal care, well-baby care, and well-child care with no cost sharing such as co-pays and deductibles. Starting this August, millions more will be able to obtain contraception,
annual well-woman care (a visit with a gynecologist), screening for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding counseling and supplies, and screening for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and the Human papillomavirus—again at no extra cost.”

Add to these the millions of women now (or soon to be)  avoiding discrimination over things like pre-existing conditions, including the condition of having been born female.

If the Supreme Court doesn’t strike it down, Republicans swear they’ll do it. The war on women is no illusion.