Today, March 23rd, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments for Zubik v. Burwell. The meat and potatoes of this case is whether or not the Affordable Care Act puts an undue burden on religious nonprofits by making them participate in a process that would get their employees’ birth control covered (by someone else).
There HAVE already been exceptions made to the Affordable Care Act for religious reasons. Houses of Worship DO NOT have to provide contraceptive coverage AND nonprofits affiliated with a religion DO NOT have to provide the coverage themselves. ALL THE LAW is asking is that these nonprofits verify that they won’t cover it. That’s it.
Meet the plaintiffs: the Little Sisters of the Poor believe that signing a few papers is an undue burden. The Sisters are a religious order (originally started in France with roughly 2300 members in the US) whose mission is to care for elderly poor populations.
In 2013, the nuns sued saying that even the ‘accommodation’ (doing paperwork) to the contraceptive-coverage mandate was a compromise of their religious beliefs, an undue burden and violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The US District Court for the District of Colorado and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals were like Nahhhhhh, submitting some papers doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal peeps (not a direct quote). So the Sisters then filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court.
Let’s be clear that the burden the Sisters are speaking of, the weight on their backs, the mountain they have to climb, the heavy load they have to carry, is picking up a pen. They are only being asked to sign a few papers confirming that they’re not going to cover the birth control needs of their employees themselves so then the government can find a third party to do it.
So essentially the Sisters are saying: I should make sure that people who are affiliated with my group can’t get affordable access to birth control anywhere even if it’s me not paying for it. And I am so certain of this that signing a few papers puts me out. Emotionally. Morally. Religiously.
We get it — NUNS are super sympathetic. They do a lot of cool, awesome, helpful, selfless stuff. They are the perfect plaintiffs on paper. We can only imagine all the other rightwing groups hanging back like: Wait for it! Wait for someone lovely and innocent to bang on this door!
But come on Little Sisters of the Poor — we cannot imagine the things you do all day in the name of charity. You clean people up, feed them and who knows what else. Aren’t you the leper people?!?!?! You help lepers! And you can’t sign a paper?! Your charity can’t extend to other women who need birth control coverage? That seems, odd?
We, of course, believe that a woman’s right to decide when and if she will have children is a fundamental right and that having access to affordable birth control is imperative (and this has been backed up by scientific factsnot just our strong faith in individual’s personal choices and autonomy). But let us also remember that women take birth control pills for a myriad of health issues like fibroids and the treatment of endometriosis. Women’s health decisions belong with the woman and her doctor, not her employer, period.
Like a sequel to Hobby Lobby, this is not just a one and done case but has the horrible potential to become a slippery slope of birth control pills sliding into an abyss of people putting their religious freedom over other people’s freedom freedom. If the Nuns get the go ahead it opens up a whole ‘we won’t even sign your permission slip’ doorway for others to misogynistically saunter through.
Shout out to Little Sister — you already don’t have to cover birth control. Show a little charity.