Supreme Court Rules Against Women in Hobby Lobby and Buffer Zone Cases

Five out of six male Supreme Court justices voted in favor of Hobby Lobby's right to deny full contraceptive benefits. Their opinion does not represent the entire male population. Photo: NARAL

Five out of six male Supreme Court justices voted in favor of Hobby Lobby’s right to deny full contraceptive benefits. Their opinion does not represent the entire male population. Photo: NARAL

On the morning of June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court (or should I say the men of the Supreme Court) ruled in favor of two corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, who argued that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for their employees’ birth control, as required by the Affordable Care Act, because of the business owners’ personal religious beliefs.

The court stated that when corporations are “closely held” and it can be shown that the owners operate the business consistently with certain religious beliefs, then these corporations can be exempted from federal laws that burden those religious beliefs.


Emergency contraception and IUDs work primarily by preventing fertilization, and won’t interfere with existing pregnancies.


The “beliefs” in question held by these two corporations concern two forms of birth control — emergency contraception and IUDs (intrauterine devices). But their “beliefs,” that emergency contraception and IUDs are abortifacients, aren’t rooted in actual science.

Here are the details.

Hobby Lobby believes that “life begins at conception.” They define “conception” as the time at which a sperm and egg combine to create a zygote.

The medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), defines conception as the point at which a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. According to ACOG, the term “conception” properly means implantation. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Hobby Lobby SCOTUSThe fight over medication-induced abortions continues here in Arizona. (NYT)
  • Sure, the birth control pill is great for keeping your womb empty, but did you know it also makes sex hotter? #WinWin (Slate XX)
  • Birth control without a co-pay looks pretty much doomed thanks to the chumps at Hobby Lobby. (Slate)
  • Things will only get harder on the access front for birth control if Hobby Lobby wins this case. Best of luck even talking to your doctor about birth control if you have insurance. (Think Progress)
  • Jon Stewart’s rant about Hobby Lobby’s (referred to here as “Jesus Christ Superstore”) shenanigans is epic. (The Wire)
  • The one question that confounds so many of us in the midst of this “religious liberty” Hobby Lobby debacle is this: WHY THE HELL ARE WE STILL ARGUING ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL IN 2014??? (CNN)
  • Teenagers are positively brimming with sexual responsibility these days! (RH Reality Check)
  • The asinine law (requiring admitting privileges at local hospitals) that caused 16 abortion providers to close in Texas has been upheld by a federal appeals court. (Time)
  • An “abortion doula” speaks on the range of emotions involved in helping women terminate pregnancies. Very powerful, moving article. (The Atlantic)
  • Are we ever going to make male birth control happen? (Bustle)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • tmp_MikeHuckabee-1529227793Dufus du jour, Mike Huckabee, has publicly aired his belief that women are poor, vulnerable souls who can’t think for themselves and are slaves to their libidos for accessing preventive reproductive health care. (WaPo)
  • He’s also a total hypocrite on the issue of the birth control mandate. (Politics USA)
  • If you thought the state of Arizona could usher in the new year without trying to further hinder the reproductive rights of women — you, my friend, were mistaken. (Tucson Weekly)
  • Oh, and now “conscience clauses” are becoming a thing. You know, having someone use their religious beliefs to trample upon your civil and, at times, human rights. This means that perhaps you’ll walk into a pharmacy one day, only to discover that the person doling out prescriptions doesn’t agree with you taking birth control, and thus can refuse to fulfill your PHYSICIAN-ORDERED PRESCRIPTION. As much as I hate being a pessimist, I could see this going in an even worse direction. How about if one’s life is at stake? Is it not entirely impossible that a gay man, suffering from HIV or AIDS, could attempt to fill a prescription related to his condition and be turned away by a pharmacist whose religious beliefs state that homosexuality is a “sin”? It would be assumed that your illness is related to your engaging in an activity regarded as “sinful” to some pill-dispensing bigot, and he or she could very well turn you away on that basis. What would prevent this from happening if such an asinine law were enacted? This trend of allowing the religious beliefs of a third party to dictate what one can or cannot have in their personal life is one of the most oppressively un-American things we’ve seen in this country during the last 50 years. It’s rich that the perpetrators of such oppression are those who proclaim to care the most about personal freedom and liberties. (Sierra Vista Herald)
  • Are we being fear-mongered over the safety of our birth control? (Slate)
  • Missouri is trying to become the third state to implement a three-day waiting period for women seeking abortion. You see, the female brain is not capable of making sound decisions before approximately 72 hours have passed (and even then, it’s iffy ’cause, ya know, we have vaginas). This is all science, folks. Not medical science. Republican, anti-choice science. (Think Progress)
  • Girl Scout cookies. The choice new dessert of abortion lovers everywhere. Yum. (Mother Jones)
  • “Miscarriage manager” will likely be the new title for more and more doctors seeking to help women terminate unwanted pregnancies. (New Republic)

“That’s Just Your Sickness Talking”: Psychiatry, Homophobia, and the Turning Point in 1973

John E. Fryer, MD, dressed as Dr. H. Anonymous at the 1972 APA conference

John E. Fryer, MD, dressed as Dr. H. Anonymous at the 1972 APA conference

It wasn’t his high blood pressure or high cholesterol that caught Matthew Moore by surprise when he went to his new physician earlier this year. Moore, a Southern California man in his mid-40s, described those conditions as “normal for me.” Nor was Moore, who is openly gay, shocked to see that his doctor noted his sexual orientation on his medical paperwork — until he saw the way that she noted it.


“The sickness label was used to justify discrimination, especially in employment, and especially by our own government.”


Listed as a chronic condition, Moore noticed “homosexual behavior” on his paperwork, followed by the medical code 302.0. As unsettling as the notation already was, Moore decided to research what the code meant, and he was left wondering how the diagnosis could happen today: “When I look[ed] up code 302.0 [I learned that it meant] sexual deviancy or mental illness, and that code has been removed or suggested heavily not to be used since 1973.”

“My jaw was on the floor,” Moore recounted. “At first, I kind of laughed, [and then] I thought, ‘Here’s another way that gay people are lessened and made to feel less-than,’ and then as I thought about it and as I dealt with it, it angered me,” he told a local news station.

Moore complained to his physician, and, dissatisfied with her response when she defended the diagnosis, he wrote a letter to the parent company of the Manhattan Beach office where his physician practiced medicine. Moore received a written apology and a refund of his co-pay.

Moore’s story made the news earlier this year because of how anomalous — and appalling — it was. But prior to 1973, Moore’s experience would have been almost inevitable, unless he took precautions to keep his sexual orientation as private and secret as possible.

Until a decision by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed the course of history 40 years ago this Sunday, on December 15, 1973, gay and lesbian people couldn’t escape the perception that their sexuality was a sickness. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • silhouetteA judge in Nebraska’s Supreme Court ruled that a 16-year-old foster child was not “mature enough” to have an abortion. She is, apparently, mature enough to:
    • endure nine months of a potentially difficult pregnancy
    • endure childbirth (which is much more dangerous than abortion)
    • have a child to take care of financially and emotionally for something like … I don’t know, 20 years
    • be a teen parent totally alone in this world with no close relatives to support her and her child

    Welcome to the perfectly logical world of anti-choicers. (Jezebel)

  • Contraception: good for women and good for society. (Raw Story)
  • Expanding the availability of abortions — California, you’re doin’ it right. (NYT)
  • Not interfering with a woman’s legal right to abortion — Ohio, you’re doin’ it wrong. (NYT)
  • Although World Contraception Day was two weeks ago, it’s still important that you know these five things about birth control. (ThinkProgress)
  • Not so fast, Virginia, your abortion restrictions will not go unchallenged!! (WaPo)
  • A thoughtful mother wants safe, legal abortion access available for her daughter and everyone else’s. (The Daily Beast)
  • Another religious “institution” doing whatever possible to restrict their female employees’ access to abortion. (LA Times)
  • If you’re a GOP legislator, why would you focus on resolving the silly government shutdown when you can instead propose more legislation around abortion? (RH Reality Check)

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 15: Fertility Awareness Education

FAM calendarWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


Fertility awareness is not the same as the rhythm method.

Let’s start there.

It’s a common misconception that is, at best, a massive oversimplification that misconstrues the concept and may lead people to dismiss or deride fertility awareness out of hand. In reality, a lot of people could benefit from a more thorough understanding of fertility, as many sexually active couples spend a lot of their lives trying to control it — whether to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Planned Parenthood health centers provide education in fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs) for a variety of purposes.


If fertility awareness is not just the rhythm method, what is fertility awareness?

For someone having menstrual cycles, fertility awareness involves monitoring cycle signs and symptoms — predominantly cervical fluid and basal body temperature, though these are often supported or “cross referenced” by tracking other signs as well — in order to determine when a person is approaching ovulation and/or to confirm when ovulation has already taken place.

How does that even work?

Fertility awareness-based methods rely on a few underlying assumptions about fertility and the likelihood of conception:

  1. For pregnancy to happen, there must be both sperm and an ovum (egg) present.
  2. Ovulation — the release of an egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube — occurs once per menstrual cycle.
  3. Sperm can survive inside someone with a uterus for approximately five to six days. (Note: The actual number a given person or couple will want to use for this assumption can vary a bit depending on whether their main goal is to achieve or avoid pregnancy.)
  4. The ovum itself is viable in the fallopian tube for approximately one to two days. After that, it begins to disintegrate, and fertilization is not possible during that cycle. (Again, different couples may use different assumptions depending on their goals.) Continue reading

The History of the Birth Control Pill, Part 4: Margaret Sanger’s “Magic Pill”

Katharine McCormick

Katharine McCormick

Welcome to the fourth installment of our series chronicling the history of the birth control pill. In the previous installment, progesterone, the birth control pill’s active ingredient, could only be administered intravenously. Scientists working in Mexico figured out how to alter its chemical structure so that progesterone would be active when taken orally.

Katharine McCormick was born into a moneyed family and was, in 1904, the second female graduated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After receiving her degree in biology, she married a wealthy man, but shortly into the marriage she gained control of her husband’s estate due to his illness. She put a lot of this money to good use: In the 1920s, she aided Margaret Sanger’s efforts to smuggle diaphragms into the country.


Katharine McCormick, a philanthropist and one of the first scientifically trained women, provided early funding for the Pill.


Her involvement with Sanger didn’t end there; indeed, both Sanger and McCormick had a lot in common, despite Sanger’s working-class childhood and McCormick’s privileged upbringing. According to historian Elaine Tyler May, McCormick and Sanger both had “a tremendous faith in the possibility of science,” and Sanger “believed that science held the key to contraception and to women’s emancipation.” Back in the ’20s, Sanger wrote:

Science must make woman the owner, the mistress of herself. Science, the only possible savior of mankind, must put it in the power of woman to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother.

In 1950, McCormick again joined forces with Sanger. In the mid-’40s, after a countrywide tour of family-planning clinics, Sanger had come to the conclusion that the diaphragm was not an adequate form of birth control, revitalizing her hope for a “magic pill.” Neither pharmaceutical companies nor the government wanted to invest in contraceptive research, considering it a “disreputable” area of study, so Sanger hatched a scheme to bankroll the independent development of an oral contraceptive. At Sanger’s behest, McCormick provided the lion’s share of funding for the project — more than $2 million (compared to the value of a dollar in the year 2000, that would be about the equivalent of $12 million). Sanger and McCormick tapped Gregory Pincus to conduct the research. McCormick, thanks to her education in biology, oversaw the research in addition to funding it. Continue reading