Corporations are people too, Mitt Romney once infamously said. Panned at the time, it's an argument that's been reprised in one of the most important and controversial U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the year, a 5-4 decision Monday that ruled some closely held corporations do not have to offer contraceptives as part of their employer-backed health plans.
The case settles the long-running dispute of Hobby Lobby, whose religious owners have balked at the Affordable Care Act's mandate to provide contraceptive coverage for women.
In South Carolina, it's not a decision that's likely to be as controversial as it is elsewhere around the country. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen declined to discuss it Monday, saying he had not seen the decision when asked about it at a news conference on another topic.
One University of South Carolina professor told the Post and Courier's Lauren Sausser that the decision was not a huge surprise.
"It could have gone different ways, but the court has, in recent years, been very pro-corporation," said health care attorney and professor Jacqueline Fox.
While Fox contends that the scope of the ruling is narrow and that relatively few women will be affected by it, local groups on both sides of the issue offered swift and more dramatic reaction to the decision on Monday.
"Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives, and in South Carolina alone we have over 530,000 women in need of contraceptive services and supplies. Clearly birth control is basic health care," said Eme Crawford, manager of online mobilization for Tell Them, a nonprofit group that supports sex education and access to reproductive health counseling in South Carolina.
"For five men on the Supreme Court to decide that a woman's boss has the power to take away basic health care is deeply troubling," she said.
As the Washington Post reported, one appeals court had ruled in Hobby Lobby's favor, relying in part on the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which said corporations have political speech rights just as individuals do in spending on elections. Another appellate court ruled the other way, saying a company such as Conestoga cannot claim to exercise religion.
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