Locals react to Hobby Lobby ruling


With signs reading “my body, my choice, my rights,” and “hands off my health,” a group of nearly 20 men and women protested on the Pedestrian Mall on Tuesday afternoon after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling came down Monday.

The Supreme Court sided with Christian-affiliated company Hobby Lobby with a 5-4 ruling for a case determining whether companies should provide contraception coverage in their health-care plans if it goes against owner’s religious beliefs.

Kelly Gallagher, a University of Iowa film student, along with local activist and UI Ph.D. student Jeannette Gabriel and local resident Annie Ventullo, helped organize Tuesday’s protest.

Gallagher said the protest was held on the Ped Mall because there are many businesses in the Downtown District.

“I think making our anger and making it clear that Iowa City is not in favor of businesses following suit of Hobby Lobby is imperative for our town and our community,” Gallagher said.

Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, employers were required to provide health plans that included preventive care and screenings for employees at no cost.

However with the ruling, corporations citing religious objections can be exempt from the contraceptive mandate.

Employers not exempt from the mandate are required to provide coverage for 20 contraceptive methods that are approved by the FDA, which include four emergency contraceptives, such as morning after pills.

Jamin Raskin, the director of the Law and Government Program and professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law, said local businesses will be greatly affected by the court’s decision.

“The majority opinion is limited to terms of closely held family-owned businesses of about five or six fewer people,” Raskin said. “The court was clear they were not going to integrate businesses religious belief.”

Raskin said businesses that are theologically opposed to all contraceptives can refuse to offer all contraceptives, as well as blood transfusions or the morning after pill.

“The issue isn’t what medical services people need; it’s what are the religious views of the company,” Raskin said.

Local resident Sara Henryson said she was angry with the court’s decision and hoped protests were not only happening in Iowa City but across the nation.

“I can’t believe what’s happened; I can’t believe the Supreme Court made that decision,” she said. “I just hope this is happening a lot of different places and I hope a lot of different people are being energized by this thing.”

Women were not the only one speaking up for their rights — men were as well.

“I don’t think it’s right that Hobby Lobby can stop its employees from having access to women’s health care; it’s stuff that they need,” local resident Jordan Shafer said.

Although the protest was happening locally, activists hope their voices could make a difference not just locally. Ventullo said many of the protesters are politically involved and hope to get their voice heard to state officials.

“Just because the court’s decided one thing doesn’t mean that we can’t reverse that,” Ventullo said. “Mostly to get the word out there and to empower people to make their own choices in their health care. It’s not up to our employers.”

Raskin said because of the polarization in Congress, an agreement may not be reached from Republicans and Democrats.

“There are lots of ways Congress can change this law, but I don’t believe Congress has the political consensus to do it,” Raskin said. “The decision is very much part of the Citizens United era; we’re living in time the Supreme Court is putting the rights of corporations on steroids.”

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