Upper Valley reacts to court’s Hobby Lobby decision on contraception

Editor’s note: This article is by Nora Doyle-Burr of the Valley News, in which it was first published July 1, 2014.

WEST LEBANON, N.H. — Opinions varied among Upper Valley residents following Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision granting family-owned businesses the choice to opt out of an Affordable Care Act requirement to offer contraception coverage to employees .

Some shoppers at the West Lebanon Hannaford grocery store on Monday afternoon felt the ruling supported the business owners’ religious freedoms, while others worried that the court’s decision represented an attack on women’s access to contraception.

Tunbridge resident Peggy Sears expressed enthusiasm for the Supreme Court ruling.

“I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “Hooray for them!”

She said she enjoys shopping at Hobby Lobby and other “places with Christian values” because she knows she won’t be “confronted by stuff you’re uncomfortable with.”

Like Sears, West Lebanon resident Al Cormier voiced support for the decision.

“I’m totally for it,” he said.

Cormier said church groups and others with religious convictions ought to be able to operate as they see fit, free from the government “forcing them to give out something totally against their beliefs.”

Others said they believed the court had accorded too much leeway to corporations, at the expense of people.

Rebekah Humphrey-Sewell, a Lebanon resident, said her reaction to the ruling would be best described using “swear words.” She wondered aloud, what if other religious businesses decide they don’t want to fund blood transfusions, honor federal holidays or provide benefits to same sex spouses ?

“It violates the separation of church and state,” she said. “I’m really unhappy.”

Lebanon resident Amy Driscoll said she was puzzled by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I just don’t understand what people have against women and contraception,” she said.

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling prompted a strong denouncement from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., one of the leading proponents in Washington for offering contraceptive coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

“Women should be making decisions about their health care with their doctors, not their employers,” Shaheen said in a statement. “Today’s Supreme Court decision unfortunately jeopardizes basic health care coverage and access to contraception for a countless number of women … Blocking access to contraception will have economic and public health consequences that our country cannot afford.”

In contrast, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown’s campaign used the opportunity to again state his opposition to the Affordable Care Act in general.

“Scott Brown supports women’s health care and access to contraception but by injecting government into every aspect of our lives, Obamacare threatens all our freedoms,” Brown’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton said via email. “The best solution is to repeal it.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3213.

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