BANGOR, Maine — Women and men stood on the sidewalk in front of Hobby Lobby Saturday morning holding signs that read: “My body is not your hobby,” “Control the boardroom, not the bedroom” and “Life, liberty and reproductive freedom,” amongst others.
The group of about 50, organized by the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, stood together to protest a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows the arts-and-crafts retailer to deny — on the grounds of religion — health insurance for their employees that cover some forms of birth control.
The group also is promoting a Hobby Lobby boycott, said Abbie Strout, education and outreach coordinator for Mabel Wadsworth, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
“The Mabel Wadsworth Center really doesn’t believe that corporations should have a right to make decisions about health care,” Strout said. “These decisions should be made between the employees and their doctors. We’re really upset with the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby for bringing this up.”
The Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 vote on June 30, that business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that requires them to provide health insurance that covers birth control. They based their decision on the a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was enacted to protect religious liberty, Justice Samuel Alito, said in his majority opinion.
Orono resident Kristen Michelle Brown said she agrees with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who wrote in her dissent, “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield” and that “in a decision of startling breadth, the court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“It opens up the possibility of your boss making other decisions on health care based on religious beliefs,” Brown said. “That is not what religious freedoms are about.”
The Bangor Hobby Lobby manager said he could not answer any questions and referred all questions to a spokeswoman at marketing communication agency Saxum. A voicemail and email sent Saturday were not immediately returned, but the Saxum website for Hobby Lobby states that the Obamacare “mandate would force the company to violate its religious belief that life begins at conception.”
Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd. is owned and operated by evangelical Christians David and Barbara Green and their children, and it has around 16,000 full-time employees
“I am just upset that ‘religious beliefs’ can have this effect on something that has nothing to do with them,” Webster Reed of Bangor said standing along Stillwater Avenue with a protest sign in hand.
He was flanked by others who said an employer should not have a say in birth control or health care choices of employees. Many of the people driving by honked their horns in support, and at least one dissenter swore at the group as they passed.
“I’m doing what I can,” Brown said, holding her protest sign high in the air for all to see. “This is my right and responsibility as an American citizen.”