June 30 2014
DENVER — The Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision on Burwell v. Hobby Lobbytoday, ruling 5-4 with the craft store that "closely held" companies should not have to provide birth control coverage for employees if doing so goes against the employer's religious beliefs.
Politico immediately called the decision, which strikes a blow at the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, "a huge black eye for Obamacare." It added that the ruling has given those Republicans engaged in tight races this November a much needed healthcare victory.
Reactions in Colorado were nearly immediate and came from both politicians and advocacy groups, who all see the decision throwing added fuel on the already-hot topic of womens' health in the upcoming election.
President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Vicki Cowart, said the Colorado Senate race in particular may see added charge due to the Supreme Court's decision
"Where does the nation discuss who's going to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court? In the Senate," she said. "The bottom line is yes, elections matter. And this fall is going to matter a great deal."
Senator Mark Udall, who is in a neck-and-neck re-election race against Congressman Cory Gardner, took the opportunity to re-assert his pro-choice, pro-Affordable Care Act stance, followed by a jab at his competitor.
"Today the Supreme Court followed Congressman Cory Gardner’s lead in putting a woman’s boss in charge of her family planning decisions,” said Women for Udall director Kim Howard in a release which also noted that Gardner voted several times before to allow companies to opt out of birth control coverage for religious reasons.
Likely anticipating this critique, Gardner's team had already run interference, asserting that the decision was about "religious liberty" and "the First Amendment."
Gardner was not alone in his stance. The non-profit Independent Women's Forum agreed, asserting that, "the real question before the Court was whether there are limits to what government can compel from its citizens and if we are still a country that believes in freedom of conscience."
Maintaining its staunch support for the Court's decision, Gardner's campaign also took care to remind voters that Gardner recently came out in support of over-the-counter birth control.
“The Food and Drug Administration now needs to move quickly to make oral contraceptives available to adults without a prescription. This easy step will make oral contraceptives both accessible and affordable for every woman who wants them," Gardner said in a release today.
Meanwhile, in the Sixth Congressional District, former Democratic state legislator Andrew Romanoff is facing off against incumbent Congressman Mike Coffman in a district where Latino and women voters will likely decide the election. Romanoff's campaign jumped on the decision, pointing out it was made entirely by male justices.
Coffman, who like Gardner recently reversed his pro-personhoood stance, was the only politician of the four not to weigh-on in the #HobbyLobby case via social media. Like Gardner, he has also voted in support of religious opt-outs to the healthcare mandate. Coffman's campaign office did not return calls and emails on the matter.
Ryann Nickerson at the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights said that 89 percent of Latina voters aged 18 to 34 support contraceptive coverage without copayments for all women. She also said that even married Catholic Latinas use birth control in large numbers (90 percent) and that the issue is fundamentally about economic justice.
"No woman should have to decide between paying for her birth control and putting food on her family’s table, paying the rent, or paying for childcare or school. Covering birth control would save women $600 or more each year. In this economy, that savings could mean the world to struggling families," Nickerson told the Independent.
In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed.
"It bears note ... that the cost of an IUD (intrauterine device) is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage," Ginsburg wrote.
Ginsburg also worried that the decision privileged the religious beliefs of some people, namely employers, over others, namely employees. In addition to economic equality, the decision could raise issues around an employee's equal protection for religious freedom and First Amendment rights.
In the Denver Hobby Lobby off Monaco Parkway the aisles are, as usual, packed with women. In the craft store's Fourth of July section images of church and state collide in red, white and blue.
When asked what she thinks of the recent decision, a female Hobby Lobby employee said only, "I wish I could say something, but I can't."