Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 10:17 pm | Fair 55º


Local News

Demonstrators Gather in Santa Barbara as Supreme Court Takes Up Birth-Control Case

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties argue they shouldn't have to pay for employees to use certain contraceptives

On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments about employer-covered birth control, some in Santa Barbara weighed in on the debate Tuesday, with several dozen of those opposed to limiting contraception to women gathering outside the courthouse.

Those gathered were keeping close tabs on the arguments in the case brought forward by two companies that maintain they should be exempt from covering certain types of contraceptives they say cause early abortions.

Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania cabinet maker, have argued they should not have to pay for employees to use IUDs or morning-after pills because of the religious convictions of their owners.

Hobby Lobby and supporters maintain that the four kinds of birth control they are fighting against providing coverage for cause abortions by not allowing a fertilized egg to implant in a woman's uterus, while productive rights groups contend that the drugs prevent fertilization and unwanted pregnancies.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor opined that granting Hobby Lobby's objections would pave the way for companies to opt out of covering other procedures based on their beliefs, such as blood transfusions or vaccines. More conservative voices, like that of Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that for-profit corporations shouldn't be barred from making freedom of religion claims and the government could still provide access to those contraceptives in a way that is less restrictive to businesses.

On Tuesday during the lunch hour in downtown Santa Barbara, about 40 people gathered to voice their opposition to Hobby Lobby's case.  

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Santa Barbara Pro-Choice Coalition, Democratic Women and the Women's Political Committee all had a presence at the demonstration. Santa Barbara Councilman Gregg Hart and Councilwoman Cathy Murillo were also there to issue support.

Wearing a bright pink Planned Parenthood T-shirt nearby was Gina Fischer, who works as director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura & San Luis Obispo Counties. Fischer said passersby had issued a good response to their signs, many of which were homemade, and that many drivers had been honking in support as they passed by in their vehicles.

Fischer said that the five Planned Parenthood clinics in the three counties saw 74,102 visits by 36,806 patients in the last fiscal year, the majority of which were seeking birth control and/or testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Fischer said Planned Parenthood had a "huge contingency" at the presentations before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

"This is about birth control," she said, and Tuesday's local event was "an opportunity to remind people what's at stake. Most logical people support birth control and access to that."

She said private, religious institutions, such as Catholic universities, have already been granted exemptions from the contraceptive portion of the law, and allowing for-profit companies to opt out would discriminate against women.

Stephanie Langsdorf, chairwoman of the Pro-Choice Coalition, was on hand and said she was out during the lunch break to express "solidarity, just to say that we stand up for reproductive rights."

"Health-care decisions are best left up to doctors and patients. Corporations really have no place in that decision. It's a dangerous precedent to set," she said, adding that corporations could choose to opt out of other health-care decisions in the future.

Other locals disagreed, however, including Betsy Gray, director of Network Medical, a nonprofit that offers ultrasounds, counseling and medical care to women in unplanned pregnancies.

Gray said that Tuesday's rally was "ill-conceived" and that the Supreme Court case wasn't about birth control or preventive health care, but about government taking away the religious liberty of private-sector businesses.

"There are 20 FDA-approved birth control methods on the market today. Hobby Lobby only disagrees on four of them," she said, adding that "those four can end a human life."

Gray said Planned Parenthood and pharmaceutical companies would profit from a decision against the companies, and that the debate is not about health care but about government involvement.

The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision on the issue by this summer.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >