By Marc Kovac
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, the head of Ohio Right to Life and others praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision enabling some companies to refrain from providing certain contraceptives as part of health care coverage.
“We are pleased the court’s decision in Hobby Lobby closely followed the arguments made in Ohio’s amicus brief,” DeWine’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, said in a statement. “The court agreed with Ohio that the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act signed by President Clinton applies to closely held private companies and that the facts in this case imposed a substantial burden on the plaintiffs’ religious liberty.”
But opponents, including two Democrats seeking statewide office, said the decision will hurt women seeking essential medical services.
“Today’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case is bad for both women and families across Ohio,” Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive and gubernatorial hopeful, said in a statement. “Not only does this ruling inappropriately involve a woman’s boss in extremely personal health-care decisions, but it also hits at the pocketbooks of families who are already struggling to get by.”
The craft store Hobby Lobby and numerous other companies had challenged the federal government over birth control mandated under the Affordable Care Act, citing their owners’ religious beliefs. Ohio and more than a dozen other states submitted briefs in support of the businesses.
“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and Obama-care cannot violate Americans’ religious freedoms,” Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a statement. “Specifically, Obamacare cannot force employers and taxpayers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. Of course, if an employer wants to offer an insurance plan that covers abortions and contraception, then they are free to do so. However, our government cannot force anyone to participate if it violates their Christian beliefs.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, expressed his disappointment in the ruling.
“I am very disheartened to hear that the Supreme Court has chosen to stand against decades of progress made by women,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “No woman should have to choose between necessary health care and having to pay their bills. This ruling will place many Americans in a difficult situation because of their employers’ ability to force their religious beliefs upon them, and it will lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies.
“Today’s ruling against women’s rights not only turns back the clock but also ushers in a new era of uncertainty. Allowing privately owned corporations the ability to push their religious beliefs onto their employees opens the gate to possible injustices yet to be realized,” he added.
Statehouse Democrats said they were “deeply concerned” about the impact of the decision.
“Today, five men decided the reproductive fate of countless female employees in a historic ruling that places the religious preferences of a few over the health and safety of millions of women across the country,” Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said in a statement. “A woman’s health care decisions should be made in her doctor’s office, not a corporate board room, and today’s ruling undermines the ability of a woman to make her own decisions.”
David Pepper, who hopes to unseat DeWine in November, added in a statement, “We’ve entered an unprecedented new era where women in the workplace could have to defer to the moral and religious views of their boss in making their most intimate health care decisions. The ripple effects will be felt long into the future.”
Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, also said decisions about contraceptives should be made between a woman and her doctor.
“This is really an issue of access to affordable health care,” she said. “While we are disappointed in today’s decision, Planned Parenthood understands the importance of the birth-control benefit for women and families, and we will continue to fight for women to have access to contraception without the hindrance of cost or other hurdles standing in the way.”