Hobby Lobby decision will hurt those living in poverty the most

The Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby decision issued by the Supreme Court on June 30, maintains that closely held corporations, where a majority of the company’s shares are held by fewer than five people, are not required to cover employee contraception as stipulated by the Affordable Care Act if they claim religious objection. Citing the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, this decision has the potential to have a broad scope, as 90 percent of corporations in the United States are considered to be closely held. The number of these companies that will deny access to contraception on religious grounds remains unknown.


The decision also has the potential to disproportionately affect women living in poverty. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the cost of an IUD, which Hobby Lobby refuses to cover, is the equivalent of nearly one month’s earnings for those earning the minimum wage. IUDs have become an increasingly popular method of birth control and have been shown to be safe and effective. While supporters of Hobby Lobby argue that women can pay for IUDs out of pocket, their cost would prevent women living in poverty from doing so. Impoverished women have a high need for resources and services including effective forms of contraception, as the rate of unintended pregnancy is 5 times higher for women living below the poverty line. Additionally, unexpected pregnancies tend to increase low-income women’s economic stability.


More local attempts to limit women’s access to contraception have also been seen recently in states such as Ohio, where the state legislature proposed House Bill 351 to prohibit the use of drugs that prevent implantation, including IUDs. Without insurance. IUDs can cost upward of $1,000, making them a largely inaccessible form of birth control the uninsured or for women who’s insurance will no longer have to cover contraception. A 2012 study found that when IUDs are made available at no cost, many women opted to use them instead of or in addition to other forms of contraception.


Additionally, increasing evidence has shown the effectiveness of access to contraception in mitigating the negative effects of poverty: women living in countries in which birth control is partially subsidized or free often are better able to withstand decreases in funding of public support programs.The effects of Hobby Lobby have yet to unfold, but its future negative impact on impoverished and women without insurance that covers contraception is cause for great concern.


Direct Service Implications
For individuals in need of access to reproductive health care in New York City, various clinics and hospitals are available to provide a range of services and resources. For more information, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has a comprehensive list or call 311 and ask for the Women’s Healthline which offers information and referrals for services.


Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at info@mcsilver.org.


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