Carrying signs that read “War on women, sponsored by Hobby Lobby” and “Hobby Lobby: anti-birth control for employees,” 15 picketers rallied outside Hobby Lobby Monday afternoon to protest the retail giant’s decision to challenge the birth control requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Hobby Lobby, a retail chain of arts and crafts stores, opened a store in Ithaca this month. The company is aiming to get the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the birth control mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance covering birth control and contraceptives. The ACA does not exempt for-profit businesses owned by religious families, like Hobby Lobby, according to SCOTUS Blog.
Lori Gardner, president of the Tompkins County National Organization for Women, a group that fights for gender equality, led the protest against Hobby Lobby.
“We’re protesting because employers should not have the right to control the private lives and bodies of their employees,” Gardner said. “They do not have the right to tell their employees whether they can use birth control or whether they can have access to birth control.”
According to Gardner, the purpose of the protest is to raise awareness about Hobby Lobby’s views on what is often referred to as the birth control mandate and to encourage consumers to rethink shopping at Hobby Lobby.
Eileen Berlow, one of the protestors, said although the Affordable Health Care Act is not perfect, it is worth defending.
“I have some problems with the Affordable Care Act because it’s not universal health care, which is what we really need. But there are some very good things in it. It allows people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get health care to get it,” Berlow said.
According to Berlow, Hobby Lobby does not have the right to push their religion on their employees.
“This lawsuit, brought by Hobby Lobby, is attacking the right of women to use contraceptives because of their religious belief that says that it is wrong. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your beliefs on somebody else,” Berlow said.
Sue Robinson, member of Tompkins County NOW, has been involved with women’s reproductive rights for over thirty years. She, like Berlow, said that Hobby Lobby should not force its religious beliefs on its workers.
“I am here because I do not think that for profit businesses have any business dictating what kind of insurance coverage their employees should have,” said Robinson. “Employees should be able to choose what kind of health care they want in consultation with their health care providers” she said.
According to Robinson, what matters is this fundamental right to choose.
“I think it’s really important that we are out here and making a statement about choice. In this case, the choice isn’t about abortion, but instead the choice is about health insurance and contraception. Contraception should be readily available to every person who wants it. It is after all the best way to prevent the need for abortion services,” she asserted.
When asked about the number of people at the protest, Robinson said that although there could have been more picketers, she was pleased with the turnout.
Hobby Lobby’s manager on staff at the time of the protest declined to comment, but Hobby Lobby argues in its lawsuit that the birth control mandate should not apply to for-profit businesses if the mandate violates their religious beliefs, according to The Huffington Post.