Protesters gathered in Boston’s City Hall plaza Tuesday to voice their angst towards the recent Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled for-profit organizations may claim religious freedom to avoid a mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ADA) requiring them to provide their employees contraception.
The event was opened by two NARAL representatives, the pro-choice Massachusetts affiliate to NARAL Pro-Choice America. The speakers outlined the recent ruling, calling it a “giant step backward” for women’s rights. Ready with chants, the speakers called on the audience to participate in lines like “2,4,6,8…Women should decide their fate.”
The crowd, made up of hundreds of women, men and children, echoed back the calls of the rally leaders while holding sings which read “Stop the War on Women” or “Keep Your Theology Off My Biology.”
For many at the rally, though, it was not the original ruling which brought them to Boston’s City Hall. On June 30, the court ruled in the favor of Hobby Lobby on the grounds of an ADA accommodation, wherein an employer can file paperwork to have the responsibility be passed on to a third party, such as an insurance company.
This accommodation still allows the employee access to contraception but frees the employer of any religious violations. In fact, Justice Samuel Alito said “the effect of the…accommodation on the [employees] and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero.”
However the court made a surprise ruling July 3, exempting Wheaton College, a Christian entity, from having to file the accommodation. College officials said the very act of filing the appropriate paperwork was in violation of their religious freedom.
Carey Moffitt-Jenkins, of Boston, said if the accommodation had been enforced July 3 she “certainly wouldn’t have as much angst,” while speculating that many at the rally had similar feelings. Moffitt-Jenkins also came in protest of a different but related Supreme Court ruling, which dismissed a Massachusetts law requiring a 35 foot buffer zone around abortion clinics.
“You can have freedom of speech,” she said “but also safety…they can coexist.”
A number of speakers filled the stage following the introduction. To introduce political allies of the rally was Boston City Councillor Ayanna Presely, whose speech caused excited shouts of support from the rallied crowd.
“For a host of reasons, people often warn me about appearing angry in public,” said Presely. “They say I could be pigeon-holed as an extreme feminist…But in my opinion, there is no shame in being publicly angry.” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh also briefly spoke at the protest rally saying he was “disappointed” with the Hobby Lobby ruling.
Supporters of Hobby Lobby’s founder David Green have stood by the decision, seeing it as justice for religious freedom. “[The Greens] don’t see their secular and…spiritual life as…[separated],”said family friend Rob Hoskins. “They see it as intertwined.”
Though, some Boston protesters at the rally took issue with this stance. “I don’t think it violates his rights at all,” said Margaret T., of Boston. “You have rights as an individual, not as a corporation…He’s trying to ‘double dip.'”
Despite the gathered rally in Boston’s City Hall Plaza, the Supreme Court ruling in Hobby Lobby’s favor is expected to be upheld. However, the opposed demonstrators are prepared to continue fighting against it. “We will stand every day if we have to,” said Walsh, “until we make sure our voices get heard.”
By Erin P. Friar
Photo By Joseph MacDonald