If you were only listening to an audio recording of the dueling Hobby Lobby protests outside the Supreme Court today, you might be forgiven for not knowing which chant was being yelled by which side.
Anti-choice protesters chanted empowering-sounding slogans like “women in control” and “healthcare is life.” Anti-choice activists on Twitter sent out seemingly tolerant tweets that said “Americans don’t have to check their religious freedom at the office door.” Even Think Progress initially misattributed an anti-choice chant, “ban bossy bureaucrats,” to the pro-choice protesters.
Those of us at the pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court could only laugh in shock and disbelief. In order to cast themselves as the tolerant side working to empower women, anti-choice activists had stolen pro-choice messaging to obfuscate their position and spread misinformation.
Hobby Lobby supporters’ claims that they were “empowering” women rang particularly hollow. There was a cruel visual irony to seeing a crowd of women chanting “women in control” and cheering as the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could control what birth control options are available to their employees. They imagined a false scenario in which government bureaucrats might control women’s health care, and created a future in which corporate bureaucrats will actually control women’s health care. Ban bossy bureaucrats, indeed.
The anti-choice rally also attempted to frame a win for Hobby Lobby as a win for religious freedom, but it’s unclear how that’s the case. A small minority now have the ability to exercise their religious beliefs through corporate practices, but millions of Americans will now have their religious rights unjustly limited.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an overwhelming majority of sexually active religious women use birth control. If they happen to work for one of the 90 percent of closely held corporations in the US, the religious beliefs of their employer may trump their own religious beliefs about which forms of contraception are acceptable. Despite what anti-choice activists may say, millions of Americans will have to check their religious freedom at the office door.
But the most pernicious argument these anti-choice activists employed was the idea that a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby was in favor of women’s healthcare. At one point, anti-choice activists began chanting “fertility is not a disease.” This chant willfully and dangerously mischaracterizes the very real medical applications of birth control.
Birth control is used to treat a range of conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. Unintended pregnancies can also cause multiple health problems for women and their children, and birth control allows women to safely delay becoming pregnant until they can do so safely. Fertility isn’t a disease, but it can have some pretty nasty side effects.
At the anti-choice rally, putting women in control meant putting women front and center as the smiling face of a movement which seeks to limit the control women have over their reproductive healthcare. Protecting religious freedom meant allowing the religious beliefs of a few to limit the freedom of millions to practice their own religious beliefs. And protecting women’s healthcare meant limiting access to medications and devices which have saved the health and lives of millions. This doublespeak would be ridiculous, if the consequences hadn’t been so disastrous at the Supreme Court.
Alyssa Franke is a recent graduate of American University.