By Karen J. Nelson
The Supreme Court’s ruling last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby effectively designated women as second-class citizens, placing our health care needs as secondary to the personal beliefs of our bosses. In a devastating ruling, the court gave CEOs of some closely held profit-making corporations the right to deny their employees legally mandated coverage for birth control because of the CEO’s personal objections – even if those objections are not supported by science or medicine.
It’s unbelievable that in 2014 we’re still fighting about whether women should have access to birth control.
Birth control is basic preventive health care for women, and 99 percent of sexually active women have used birth control. Nearly 60 percent of women use contraception for health reasons. When used correctly, birth control can help relieve painful menstrual cramps, avert infertility by addressing the symptoms of endometriosis and prevent unintended pregnancy.
Ovarian cancer affects one in 71 women and by simply using oral contraceptives for five or more years, the risk of developing ovarian cancer is reduced by 50 percent – a remarkable reduction in risk. For many women, these are more than just statistics, but rather the difference between life and death.
As women across New York know all too well, this important preventive care isn’t cheap. Despite the fact that access to affordable birth control is a basic part of preventive care, and an important part of economic advancement for women in the workplace, a 2010 survey found that more than a third of all women have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point in their lives.
Now, as a result of a ruling that was issued by five male justices (and opposed by all three female justices), that coverage is jeopardized for all women who work at closely held corporations. Before you think that group is narrowly tailored, the court’s decision affects enormous for-profit companies employing thousands of women and more than half of the workforce in this country.
Karen J. Nelson is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York in Buffalo.