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Locals react to high-court cases

BY REBECCA MORIN | MARCH 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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Members of the Johnson County community protested two U.S. Supreme Court cases dealing with contraceptive health insurance to bring light to the issues on Tuesday afternoon.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sibelius, which cover contraceptive health insurance coverage under employer plans.

Currently, both owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga offer insurance that covers most birth control but will not cover emergency contraceptives.

Although the outcomes of the cases are uncertain, the court could cast preliminary votes later this week. The final ruling is expected in June.

Local attorney Linda Levey said she helped organize the protest to address what the ruling outcomes could mean.

“This is a case of national significance, so it’s going to affect all women if Hobby Lobby wins this,” she said. “[Women] are going to be at the mercy of their bosses’ religious beliefs, and we don’t want that to happen.”

However, some individuals at the protest viewed the cases differently.

Sheryl Schwager, the executive director of Johnson County Right to Life, said the cases are about “religious freedom” and about women educating what “they are putting into their body.”

“We’re here to stand up for the right of religious freedom,” Schwager said. “Just because someone wants to run a business doesn’t mean they have to check their religion at the door.”

Because of the cases, the court is evaluating provisions from the Affordable Care Act that require for-profit employers of a certain business size to offer insurance benefits for birth control and other reproductive health services.

Barbara Beaumont, who serves as president of the Johnson County League of Women Voters, said she believes the cases could allow other businesses to deny providing health insurance if the provisions change.

“If Hobby Lobby gets its way, anyone can say it’s again their religion to provide whatever insurance they think is gains their religion,” she said.

Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig said when she underwent a hysterectomy, it required many blood transfusions. If the ruling revises the insurance requirements, she said she thinks it could affect others who were in her position.

“… Don’t tell me if Hobby Lobby is allowed to have religious freedom over reproductive rights, then the Jehovah Witnesses are not allowed to have it over blood products,” Rettig said. “So there will be no end of this because in the end, none of us will have good health insurance because everybody who has to pay for health care will find a religious objection to it.”


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