Hobby Lobby Decision Disillusioning to Social Justice Movement

Justice or judgement a raised gavel about to strike. Sale at the end of an auction. Differential focus, limited depth of fiel
Justice or judgement a raised gavel about to strike. Sale at the end of an auction. Differential focus, limited depth of field.

Any users of social media are probably already tiring of the vast display of attention Monday's Supreme Court decision about the Hobby Lobby case has received. All over the Internet, tweets and op-eds abound, condemning this decision as discrimination against women, especially those who cannot afford to buy birth control. For me, all of these angry words are preaching to the choir. But the worst part is how futile it makes the efforts made against this decision seem.

For me, this marks a moment of existential crisis for social justice organizations fighting for rights of the disenfranchised. Today, a corporation is a "person." An embryo is a "person." And yet, so little is being done to protect the rights of women -- what about them? The decision is of course even worse for low-income women, and yet they must carry the burden of purchasing their own birth control because the world is still run by rich white men. We can continue to dissect the decision, analyze how or why the legal precedent "upheld religious freedom" for a corporation but not for its female employees. We can talk about discrimination. But none of it feels like it even accomplishes anything.

I recently interned at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who have campaigned endlessly against Hobby Lobby. Like many other organizations, we published a press release, an Amicus Brief and participated in a press conference about how this decision will affect low-income women and women of color. But beyond strongly worded condemnations like those released in Chief Justice Ginsburg's dissent have no effect on the decision.

The Hobby Lobby decision is extremely disillusioning. Our democracy claims to represent the "voice of the people," but what it really means is "the voice of the people with money." Freedom for some, copays for all. Though some applaud this choice as an example of a victorious check on government power, it doesn't check the power, it just transfers it to corporations. The 2010 court decision that corporations have the same rights as people was just a perilous first step. The hashtag #NotmyBossBusiness speaks to this issue. Should big businesses replace the government? I don't think anyone would support that. And yet, this decision sets a major precedent on this path.

This isn't just a sad day for women's rights or freedoms, this is a sad day for everyone's freedoms. The Supreme Court was created to check executive power, but there is no such body that checks corporate power. Nonprofit and other social justice organizations are unable to wield the corporate power that comes from having money, and so must struggle to stay afloat, begging for tiny fractions of profits from the billionaires who made their riches exploiting other people. The system is backwards and getting worse. And yet, it seems increasingly pointless to even try.