The Supreme Court just ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby, and thereby held that some businesses may claim religious exemption and not follow Obamacare’s contraception-coverage mandate.
In the run-up to a summer where midterm campaigning will begin in earnest, this may not be the worst thing for Democrats.
Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide contraception coverage to their employees, free of charge, as a preventive health service. Two businesses — Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties — claimed the mandate violated their First Amendment right to practice religion, and successfully took their case to the Supreme Court.
As Sam Baker wrote last week, this ruling may have little effect for many employers — particularly large companies — because contraceptive coverage is popular and cheap in comparison to an employee getting pregnant. By encouraging companies to offer health benefits like free contraceptive coverage, the free market can work to job seekers’ advantage.
Still, Democrats and others who support the mandate are already fuming at the decision. “This decision takes money out of the pockets of women and their families and allows for-profit employers to deny access to certain health care benefits based on their personal beliefs,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a statement after the decision.
But that anger may actually work in Democrats’ favor, come fall, in courting the votes and participation of single female voters.
Single women make up one of the fastest growing voter demographics in the U.S. — they now comprise a quarter of the electorate. A recent Stan Greenberg poll posits that unmarried women can “make or break” the 2014 elections. And, as Mara Liasson wrote in May, they are firmly in Democrats’ camp. But Democrats have a problem: Like most everyone else in the electorate, young women are less likely to turn out to vote in midterm elections. A Supreme Court case doesn’t necessarily change that: Getting young female voters fired up about a decision is one thing; getting them to vote is another.
Luckily, contraception coverage is an issue young women care about. A March poll conducted by Hart Research Associates (and commissioned by Planned Parenthood) found that a large majority of female voters — 81 percent — believe prescription birth control should be covered as a preventive health service, at no additional cost to prescribers.
For single women, birth-control coverage presents a trinity of issues they care about — health care, reproductive issues, and pay equity (after all, this is an issue that men don’t really have to worry about). The Hobby Lobby decision may not be a silver bullet, but it could be enough to energize support among female voters who are suddenly worried that their employers could stop covering their birth control.
Fear is almost always a better political motivator than positivity. Democratic and Republican fundraising groups often successfully use scare tactics to get supporters to donate money, and they’re now ramping up their online solicitations more than during any previous cycle.
Young women may not be the well-heeled donors the Democratic Party needs to buy up beaucoup television ad time in the midterms. But asking young women for a $5 contribution — less than a grande latte at Starbucks! — to fight the Republicans who supported the Hobby Lobby decision could be Democrats’ way into their hearts and wallets.
And, depending on how tone-deaf the Republican response to the decision sounds, they could be fightin’ words for a chronically underrated subset of voters.