March 25, 2014 — More than two-thirds of female voters say that corporations should not be allowed to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees because of their owners' religious beliefs, according to a new poll from Hart Research Associates, the Huffington Post reports.
The poll, commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the National Women's Law Center, surveyed women ages 18 to 55 ahead of two legal challenges to the federal contraceptive coverage rules that were heard at the Supreme Court Tuesday morning (Bassett, Huffington Post, 3/24). The rules require most employers to offer contraceptive coverage to their workers. In the cases before the high court, the arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties argue that they should not have to comply because their owners object to certain forms of contraception on religious grounds (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/20).
The poll found that 68% of women who would be affected by the Supreme Court ruling disagreed with the businesses' position, with more than 50% saying that they disagree "strongly." In addition, the poll found that 84% of women said that they thought contraception "[s]hould be a woman's personal decision, and her boss should not be able to interfere with it" (Huffington Post, 3/24).
Meanwhile, 72% of respondents said that corporations should not be able to exempt themselves from complying with laws because of religious objections. This sentiment was shared by 79% of respondents who identified as Democrats, 72% of independents and 50% of Republicans, according to the poll.
The poll also found broad support for the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) requirement that health insurance plans cover preventive care without copayments. Overall, 93% of respondents said they support the provision, including 96% of Democrats, 95% of independents and 87% of Republicans. More specifically, 81% of respondents said that prescription birth control should be covered as a preventive health service without a copay, including 92% of Democrats, 83% of independents, 63% of Republicans and 79% of Catholics (McDonough, Salon, 3/24).
Separately, the poll found that most respondents also objected to other kinds of laws that allow businesses to discriminate based on religious objections. For example, 81% of respondents opposed a recently vetoed Arizona bill that would have permitted businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples for religious reasons.
Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, said the poll showed that contraception "is the kind of issue that has the potential to become a litmus test for many women about whether their leaders side with them or side with corporations instead" (Huffington Post, 3/24).
Editorial, Op-Eds Argue Against Businesses' Claims
A Los Angeles Times editorial and opinion pieces in USA Today and the Washington Post argue that exempting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties from the contraceptive coverage rules would be legally unfounded and threaten a wide range of laws that protect workers and prevent discrimination. Summaries appear below.
~ Los Angeles Times: A Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would not only create a "huge loophole" in the ACA but could also endanger "support for accommodating religious objections," a Times editorial states. The editorial argues that corporations are not humans capable of religious exercise and are legally distinct from their religious owners. Further, the contraceptive coverage rules are not "a substantial burden on their exercise of religion," the editorial states (Los Angeles Times, 3/25).
~ Gene Robinson, USA Today: "The Jesus I follow always stood with the poor and powerless -- and trust me, [the Hobby Lobby case] is about power," writes Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson draws comparisons between the federal contraceptive coverage case and the vetoed Arizona law, writing, "I'm just sometimes embarrassed to be associated with others who claim" to be Christian because whether the "issue touches women or gays and lesbians, our religion should be about more love, not less; more dignity, not less." Robinson writes that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby "would not be a victory for religious freedom, but a victory for discrimination and a repudiation of the vital progress the court has made in securing equal justice for all" (Robinson, USA Today, 3/24).
~ Sandra Fluke, Washington Post: "Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws," writes Fluke, a social justice attorney and candidate for the California Senate. She writes that a ruling in favor of a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer could allow other employers to deny any "critical health coverage the boss doesn't agree with," such as "blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment." In addition, such a ruling would give "any person or group with a religious qualm the legal ability to refuse to comply with numerous critical employment laws," including "protections against employment discrimination, guarantees of equal pay and on and on," Fluke writes (Fluke, Washington Post, 3/24).