The Supreme Court's One-Two Punch Against Women's Health: McCullen and Hobby Lobby

Jul 2, 2014Andrea Flynn

The Court's rulings place more barriers, both physical and financial, between U.S. women and basic health care.

The Court's rulings place more barriers, both physical and financial, between U.S. women and basic health care.

In the last week the Supreme Court announced two decisions that could dramatically change the landscape of women’s health access in the United States. It will be some time before we know the full impact of McCullen v. Coakley and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, but in the short term two things are for sure. The decisions will make it more difficult and less safe for many women to get the care they need, and they will undoubtedly embolden a conservative movement that hardly needs fortification.

The last three years brought record setbacks to women’s health and rights. More abortion restrictions were enacted between 2011-2013 (205) than in the entire previous decade (189). Today nearly 90 percent of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider and more than 56 percent of U.S. women live in a state hostile to abortion. In many states the procedure has essentially been regulated out of existence. But it’s not just abortion rights that are under attack. The days of conservatives being “anti-abortion” but pro-family planning are long behind us. Today’s conservatives view birth control as the gateway drug to abortion, and regulate it with the same zeal they once saved for abortion.

Restrictions to Title X funding are closing publicly funded clinics around the country. Those clinics serve to provide reproductive health services to low-income and young women, and the majority do not even provide abortions. There is reason to fear that other conservative states are following the lead of Texas, where thousands of women are dealing with the consequences of a complete lack of access to basic health care thanks to lawmakers who have closed a record number of clinics. 

Making matters worse, today 24 states are not participating in the Medicaid expansion originally mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), leaving two-thirds of poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of low-wage workers uninsured.

It’s against this backdrop that we have McCullen and Hobby Lobby, two decisions that are effectively a one-two punch to U.S. women. They allow employers to erect financial barriers to contraceptive choice and embolden protesters to serve as physical and emotional barriers to women’s basic health care. 

In McCullen, the Court struck down as a violation of free speech a Massachusetts law that provided a 35-foot “buffer zone” around clinics that provide abortion. The law was created to protect patients entering clinics, and many states have similar regulations in place. It’s unclear what will happen to those other buffer zones. It’s also more than slightly ironic that the Supreme Court, the very body responsible for upholding freedom of speech, has a 100-foot buffer zone that is still intact.

Protesters will feel vindicated in their attempt to persuade, intimidate, threaten, and terrorize women from accessing care to which they are constitutionally guaranteed. Last weekend the Boston clinic at the heart of the McCullen case saw a threefold increase in protesters. That’s just in Massachusetts. Clinics in more conservative states regularly see hundreds of protesters on a given day.

Hobby Lobby was just one of more than 50 companies (supported by organizations like the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty) that took issue with the ACA’s “contraceptive mandate,” the requirement that all employer-based health plans fully cover, without cost sharing, all FDA-approved methods of contraception. These companies filed claims against the mandate, arguing that intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and emergency contraception (EC) constitute abortion and therefore being required to provide coverage for those methods was a violation of their religious liberty. Never mind that by all accepted medical standards those methods prevent, not terminate, pregnancy. The Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, allowing “closely held” companies – generally understood to be those having more than 50 percent of the value of their stock owned by five or fewer individuals – to refuse coverage of certain contraceptive methods.

So, what happens now? Well, most women who work for Hobby Lobby and other such companies will no longer have access to the contraceptive method of their choice. They will have to decide if they want to pay for those methods out of pocket or go to a clinic where they can receive subsidized care, if they are lucky enough to have access to one. This will place additional and unnecessary pressure on an already embattled public health infrastructure.

The majority claimed the Hobby Lobby ruling was narrow and would not have the sweeping consequences suggested in Justice Ginsburg’s scathing and on-point dissent. I’m not convinced. According to Harvard Business Review, 90 percent of U.S. companies are considered closely held, and those companies employ more than 51 percent of U.S. workers. There are already at least 80 other cases waiting to follow in Hobby Lobby’s footsteps. Given conservatives’ strategic organizing and employers’ willingness to carry the anti-reproductive rights, anti-Obama, anti-ACA banner, others will surely join the cause.

For the time being, the ACA – and the mandate – remain intact, even if somewhat fractured. We should continue to fight for the full implementation of the ACA, a historic – and by all measures successful – piece of legislation that is advancing the vision FDR articulated more than 70 years ago when he called for a Second Bill of Rights. That vision included medical care to allow all Americans to achieve and enjoy good health.

In falsely pitting freedom of speech and religion against women’s rights – as if women don’t also have rights to those same freedoms – the Supreme Court has given momentum to an already fast-moving train. Conservatives will only have more resolve to continue tearing down the building blocks of women’s health and rights. It’s going to take a lot to stop them. A lot of outrage, a lot of action, and a lot of engaged voters committed to standing up for women’s rights. Here’s hoping we can make that happen.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Image via Thinkstock

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Daily Digest - June 30: Inequality is a Choice We Can Stop Making

Jun 30, 2014Tim Price

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Inequality Is Not Inevitable (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that policies and politics have created America's economic divide, and only engaged citizens can fix it.

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Inequality Is Not Inevitable (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that policies and politics have created America's economic divide, and only engaged citizens can fix it.

  • Roosevelt Take: For more on Stiglitz's plan to address inequality, read his Roosevelt Institute white paper on tax reform.

How Cities Can Take on Big Cable (Bloomberg View)

The Federal Communications Commission should preempt state laws that ban cities from building competitive fiber networks, writes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford.

Public Sector Unions Could Radically Change This Week (WaPo)

Today's Supreme Court decision on Harris v. Quinn could seriously weaken public employee unions if their compulsory dues are ruled unconstitutional, notes Lydia DePillis.

Will the Government Finally Regulate the Most Predatory Industry in America? (The Nation)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering new rules to protect the 12 million Americans a year who rely on high-interest payday lenders, reports Zoe Carpenter.

Why This Company Decided to Make Its Salaries Public to All Employees (Think Progress)

The CEO of data analytics company SumAll tells Bryce Covert that increased pay transparency has led to greater productivity and trust and less stress over compensation.

What Americans Think of the Poor (Prospect)

A new Pew poll shows that even many conservatives who agree that "poor people have it easy" also believe the economic system is unfair, writes Paul Waldman.

New on Next New Deal

Summer Vacation is Feeding the Achievement Gap

Students from low-income families face substantial setbacks without access to summer learning programs, write Roosevelt Institute Director of Operations Sarah Pfeifer Vandekerckhove and policy intern Candace Richardson.

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Summer Vacation is Feeding the Achievement Gap

Jun 27, 2014Sarah Pfeifer VandekerckhoveCandace Richardson

Learning loss during summer vacation is far worse for students of lower socioeconomic status, making low-cost and free educational summer programming essential.

Learning loss during summer vacation is far worse for students of lower socioeconomic status, making low-cost and free educational summer programming essential.

New York City public schools begin summer break today. For many students, summer is a time to rest, travel and play, and a recent study even demonstrates the critical role of play in a student’s future academic and financial success. But extensive research shows that these few months away from the structured activities of school are particularly detrimental to the academic achievement of students of low SES (socioeconomic status) families. Without access and exposure to educational enrichment opportunities during the summer months, these students face substantial setbacks in their academic development.

Of course, all students experience some learning loss during the summer months. Research on the “summer slide” phenomenon shows that nearly all students perform worse on standardized tests taken at the end of summer vacation than the same test taken at the end of the previous school year and lose two months of math skills over the summer months.

For low SES students, however, summer slide does even greater damage to their academic achievement year over year, increasing the achievement gap as well as the likelihood that such students will drop out of high school or not attend college. Summer slide occurring during elementary school alone contributes to at least half of the SES achievement gap by the time students reach 9th grade.  In fact, low SES high school students are eight times less likely to attend a four-year college, compared with their high SES peers.

While only about 20% of students from low-income families participate in summer learning programs, high-income families can afford to expose their children to a variety of enrichment activities, including summer camp. In February, TimeOut published a list of upcoming academic summer camps in New York City that offer exciting sessions on robots, chemistry, reading, and math along with many educational field trips to museums and zoos, with the average cost of these camps totaling $2,176 per month.  For the seventy-eight percent of New York City’s 1.1 million students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch ($43,568 annually for a family of four) that’s nearly 60 percent of their family’s monthly income, meaning these academic summer camps are out of the question for the families whose kids need them the most.

Cost is only one of many barriers to summer program participation for low SES families. Accessibility plays a big role. For instance, the New York City Department of Education’s Summer Quest, a free, five-week enrichment program to combat summer slide, is only available at 22 of the city’s 1700 public schools. And while NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have strongly encouraged participation in summer enrichment programs, only about 55,000 low SES students will receive free programming this summer.

Despite the efforts to engage students in summer enrichment programs, New York City still has a long way to go.

About one-third of the achievement gap can be attributed to a child’s SES before they even enter kindergarten. Combatting the 31.4% child poverty rate in New York City through expansion of Home Visiting programs can go along way in getting students off on the right foot. This is just one of many policy solutions that arose at the Roosevelt Institute’s recent conference, Inequality Begins at Birth.

Of the 55,000 New York City students receiving free summer programming, De Blasio anticipates that 34,000 of those will be middle-schoolers. Increasing the engagement of elementary school children will mitigate substantial growth in the achievement gap, as early academic setbacks compound over time. The DOE can start by expanding NYC Summer Quest and other programs to target younger students, and over time the focus should be on engaging even more of the 850,000+ low SES students in New York City public schools.

Sarah Pfeifer Vandekerckhove is the Roosevelt Institute's Director of Operations.

Candace Richardson is a Policy Intern for the Four Freedoms Center.

Chart from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

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Daily Digest - June 27: NLRB Ruling is Politics as Usual

Jun 27, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Myth of America’s Golden Age (POLITICO Magazine)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Myth of America’s Golden Age (POLITICO Magazine)

Growing up in Gary, Indiana gave Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz early insight into inequality, which is a result of politics and not an economic inevitability, he says.

Presidential Appointments Were Already a Total Nightmare. They Just Got Worse. (MoJo)

Patrick Caldwell breaks down the NLRB v. Canning decision, and explains how it will increase obstructionism in Congress by reducing real recesses.

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning (Supreme Court)

President's Obama's appointments to the NLRB in December 2011 occurred during a three-day adjournment, not a true recess, so the Supreme Court has ruled the appointments invalid. Justice Breyers delivers the Court's opinion.

What Happened When the City of Boston Asked Teenagers for Help With the Budget (Next City)

Hollie Russon Gilman reports that when 12-25 year olds were given responsibility for $1 million of Boston's budget, they funded parks, the arts, and educational technology.

To Get a Fair Share, Sharing-Economy Workers Must Unionize (AJAM)

Susie Cagle talks to Uber driver Ramzi Reguii about his work to organize his fellow drivers. They've already rallied together to prevent Uber from requiring some drivers to buy new cars.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Operations Director Lydia Bowers looks at how the sharing economy exploits unprotected workers.

More Than Three Quarters of Conservatives Say the Poor “Have it Easy” (WaPo)

Christopher Ingraham sees this widespread agreement among conservatives as the most striking result in the Pew Research Center's massive survey of American politics.

The Crisis of Student Loans is Real, No Matter What Pundits Tell You (The Guardian)

David Dayen says the Brookings student debt report fails by focusing on the average income of college graduates overall, which ignores how badly the job market has harmed recent graduates.

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Daily Digest - June 26: People Awaken to Find Wall Street is a Crooked Road

Jun 26, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Wall Street and Washington Want You to Believe the Stock Market isn't Rigged. Guess What? It Still Is (The Guardian)

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Wall Street and Washington Want You to Believe the Stock Market isn't Rigged. Guess What? It Still Is (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore says investment in the stock market isn't down due to low investor confidence, but because more people are realizing the system isn't equal for all investors.

A Cure for Bloated CEO pay (Fortune)

Dean Baker proposes a "Director's Roulette" provision, which would withhold directors' compensation if a CEO pay package they approve had been voted down by a shareholder Say-on-Pay vote.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow and Director of Research Susan Holmberg examines how Say-on-Pay begins to curb executive compensation.

Why did the White House Pass Up an Opportunity to Support a (Mostly) Good, Bipartisan Idea? (WaPo)

The White House rejected the proposed gas tax, needed to save the Highway Trust Fund that pays for infrastructure, but Jared Bernstein says an imperfect fix would have been better than nothing.

How the Government Subsidizes Wealth Inequality (CAP)

Harry Stein proposes that the U.S. government could reduce wealth inequality simply by changing tax policy for capital gains, since current subsidies give $2 trillion to the wealthy over 10 years.

How Connecticut’s Smart New Pension Plan Can Prevent Poverty in Retirement (The Nation)

Connecticut's new plan, which offers statewide benefits to private sector workers, will cost less than helping greater numbers of elderly poor down the line, writes Michelle Chen.

Ikea Plans to Increase Minimum Hourly Pay (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on Ikea's new wage structure, which sets minimum wages on a store-by-store basis based on local cost of living, with an average minimum wage of $10.76.

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Daily Digest - June 24: What We Talk About When We Talk About Poverty

Jun 24, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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21st Century Democrats: Konczal on GOP Misunderstanding Charity (America's Democrats.org)

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21st Century Democrats: Konczal on GOP Misunderstanding Charity (America's Democrats.org)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal discusses his article on "The Voluntarism Fantasy," the false idea that private charity could provide for the needs of the poorest Americans.

Get Sick, Get Fired: America's Low-Wage Workers Push Back (TAP)

Sharon Lerner says the fight over paid sick leave is characteristic of larger fights over the nature of democracy, and whether the desires of the common people are being accounted for.

Washington is Making Inequality Worse (MSNBC)

A new study suggests that growing political polarization and rising income inequality are linked. Timothy Noah emphasizes that polarization stems from the GOP moving to the right.

Massachusetts Nannies and Housekeepers Now Protected From Long Days, Abuse, Sexual Harassment (The Nation)

Michelle Chen speaks to some of the workers who will benefit from Massachusetts's new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which awaits the governor's signature.

Corporate Close-Up: Should CEO Compensation Determine Corporate Income Tax Rates? (Bloomberg BNA)

Melissa Fernley reports on a new model for corporate income taxes being considered in California, which would scale tax rates based on CEO-to-median worker compensation ratios.

States Undo Food Stamp Felon Bans (HuffPo)

California and Missouri are giving more ex-offenders access to food stamps, reports Arthur Delaney. He says this is an opportunity to reduce recidivism by helping people feed their families.

Mankiw, Piketty, and Wealth Taxes (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein argues that economist Greg Mankiw fails to prove that allowing the wealthy to keep more of their wealth will be better for everyone else.

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Daily Digest - June 23: Weak Labor, Low Wages Feed Unstable Housing Market

Jun 23, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Housing Market Falters Amid Rising Prices, Lower-Paying Jobs (Bloomberg)

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Housing Market Falters Amid Rising Prices, Lower-Paying Jobs (Bloomberg)

Kathleen M. Howley reports on new, weaker forecasts for the housing market, and blames slow labor growth, which is primarily in low-wage jobs, and stagnant wages.

Poll: Fewer Americans Blame Poverty on the Poor (NBC News)

A new poll shows a major shift in how Americans perceive the causes of poverty since 1995, writes Seth Freed Wessler. Nearly half of respondents today blame structural causes.

The Economic Argument for Raising Women's Pay (Political Research Associates)

Mariya Strauss assesses the economic benefits of pay equity, which include increased economic growth and tax revenues, as well as a reduced need for public assistance programs.

Republicans Finally Admit Why They Really Hate Obamacare (NY Mag)

As the predictions of Obamacare skeptics are steadily debunked, Jonathan Chait says conservatives are forced to admit they just don't like transfer programs to help the poor.

The Big Lobotomy (Washington Monthly)

Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards look at how Republicans in Congress have cut the Congressional workforce, reducing expertise and capacity as well as limiting their own effectiveness.

Why Inequality Might Make Kids Drop Out of High School (WaPo)

A new study suggests that the "economic despair" caused by increased inequality is the reason for higher dropout rates, reports Matt O'Brien.

Finally! Big Investors Declare War on Big Banks (The Fiscal Times)

David Dayen reports on a new front in the post-financial crisis legal battle:  a group of investors sues the trustee banks that assembled mortgage bonds for abandoning quality standards.

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Daily Digest - June 19: Government Has the Power to End the Student Debt Crisis

Jun 19, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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College is Ruining Lives! How to Stop Student Debt’s Paralyzing Spiral (Salon)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our Monday through Friday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

College is Ruining Lives! How to Stop Student Debt’s Paralyzing Spiral (Salon)

David Dayen calls for free tuition at public colleges and universities, and for the federal government to stop using private student loan servicers that put profits ahead of borrowers.

  • Roosevelt Take: Loan servicers lose money when student loans are paid off ahead of schedule, but Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that shouldn't concern taxpayers.

The Fed of Magical Thinking: Why is Janet Yellen Ignoring the Rest of Us? (The Guardian)

The Federal Reserve uses a measure of inflation that doesn't include food or gas, which Heidi Moore says leaves the central bank out of step with ordinary Americans' concerns.

Cutting the Poor Out of Welfare (NYT)

Thomas Edsall blames recent increases in extreme poverty on ostensibly anti-poverty policy shifts that support married and working adults over all other people living in poverty.

Obama: US Must ‘Strengthen Unions’ (The Hill)

Justin Sink reports on the President's statements on unions at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, where he credited organized labor with building the country's middle class.

Increasing Wages is an Effective Poverty Reduction Tool (TalkPoverty)

Elise Gould says that rising inequality is the flip side of nearly three decades of stagnant wages, and reversing this stagnation will require pro-worker labor policy.

Does Innovation Always Lead to Gentrification? (Pacific Standard)

Kyle Chayka argues that innovation districts, filled with new and growing businesses, should be built to benefit an economically diverse population instead of just young workers.

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Daily Digest - June 18: Is High CEO Pay a Reward for Failure?

Jun 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Study: The Higher the Pay, the Worse the CEO (Vocativ)

Daniel Edward Rosen looks at a study from the University of Utah, which shows that companies that pay CEOs more than $20 million a year have average annual losses over $1 billion.

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Study: The Higher the Pay, the Worse the CEO (Vocativ)

Daniel Edward Rosen looks at a study from the University of Utah, which shows that companies that pay CEOs more than $20 million a year have average annual losses over $1 billion.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow and Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Campus Network alumna Lydia Austin look at additional ways high CEO pay distorts the economy.

Chicago Aldermen Want a $15 Minimum Wage in Their City, Too (In These Times)

Progressives in Chicago are pushing their own minimum wage increase, reports Ethan Corey, and the popular measure would be implemented much more quickly than Seattle's.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong says increasing the minimum wage is a powerful step to promote democracy.

A Small Increase in Inflation Squeezes U.S. Workers (NYT)

Neil Irwin reports that average wages have fallen 0.1 percent in the past year when inflation is taken into account, so while the economy may be improving, workers are still struggling.

The Big Freeze on Hiring (WaPo)

Companies are taking longer than ever to fill open jobs, and Catherine Rampell suspects their reluctance is due to continued uncertainty about the health of the economy.

Domestic Workers, Domestic Cargo (The Baffler)

Ned Resnikoff reviews Sheila Bapat's new book on domestic workers' rights and ties their struggle to other low-wage service jobs that are similarly disparaged as not "real jobs."

Critics Warn Starbucks Employees to Read the Fine Print of New Tuition Plan (ThinkProgress)

Alan Pyke speaks to education experts, who critique the Starbucks program for restricting tuition assistance to a single online university, with no options for in-person classes.

U.S. Reaches $968 Million Mortgage Settlement With SunTrust (WSJ)

Alan Zibel and Andrew R. Johnson report on SunTrust's settlement, the latest attempt to penalize banks for abusive mortgage practices. $500 million is reserved to help underwater homeowners.

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Daily Digest - June 13: With Soaring Pay, CEOs Rise to the Top of the 1 Percent

Jun 13, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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CEO Pay Up by 937% Since 1978. That of the Typical Worker? 10.2% (AJAM)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our Monday through Friday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

CEO Pay Up by 937% Since 1978. That of the Typical Worker? 10.2% (AJAM)

Peter Moskowitz looks at a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, which finds that CEO pay is even outstripping the earnings of other members of the top 0.1 percent.

  • Roosevelt Take: In his new white paper, William Lazonick explains how the explosive growth of CEO pay destabilizes the economy.

U.S. Struggles to Draw Young, Savvy Staff (WSJ)

Officials worry about government's ability to succeed in a digital world when the percentage of its employees younger than 30 has hit an eight-year low, writes Rachel Feintzeig.

How Justice Scalia Could Become the Savior of Public Employee Unions (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik says the reliably conservative Supreme Court Justice's past statements on public sector unions show that he could be the key vote for unions in Harris v. Quinn.

The Damage of Poverty is Visible as Early as Kindergarten (Vox)

Danielle Kurtzleben writes about new research that shows an achievement gap between poor, near-poor, and middle-class kindergarteners, which can have lifelong consequences.

How Women Are Shaping the Labor Movement and Winning Big (The Nation)

Dani McClain speaks to Sheila Bapat about her new book on the rise of organizing among domestic workers, who are excluded from many basic labor protections.

Remember the Problems With Mortgage Defaults? They’re Coming Back With Student Loans (NYT)

Susan Dynarski draws parallels between the mortgage crisis and student debt, with particular concerns about loan servicers who have little incentive to prevent default.

New on Next New Deal

Teachers and Tutors Can't Fix All of Low-Income Students' Problems

Summer Academy Fellow Casey McQuillan explains how public policy failures that held back the students he tutored led him to the Campus Network.

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