The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby and employer’s rights to decline funding contraception as part of a health care package on religious grounds, is a multi-faceted issue in which the apparent right wing leaning is not entirely without merit. I’m actually amazed that I’m saying that, but in reading the article there are two important facts that are usually not reported until well down the column, each of which have an important bearing on the justification of this ruling.
The first is that is that the coverage which led to objection was for “morning after” pills, which would cause abortion according to the pro-life, Christian perspective. It was not primarily for things like condoms and birth control pills, although I’m unable to find any mention of whether these too are covered in the ruling. While I disagree with them, I have no trouble understanding and sympathizing with a Christian business owner being asked to pay into a health plan which covers a pill that causes abortions. To not understand that fact is to be a little insensitive.
The second fact is that a similar situation came up regarding not-for-profit religious organizations resulting in a work-around application to the insurance companies which would allow such coverage without it having to go through the employer. Any employee whose coverage has been compromised by the new ruling is still able to make that same application and receive coverage. So, in effect, there need be no withholding of coverage at all.
The real tragedy within this ruling is that it opens the door for other companies to protest having to cover any insurance issue with which they might have an issue. What about blood transfusions or vaccinations? What about stem cell or gene therapy? While it is true that the ruling was very specific, and clearly stated that it did not guarantee that other businesses or other issues would receive the same ruling, it still is a huge mess and kettle of fish. Other issues will most assuredly arise. Other religions will come forward and demand exemptions for legal responsibilities, claiming that to award such things to only Christians is grossly unfair, which it is.
From an Integral perspective, I feel that the mistake was made including such a controversial product for insurance coverage in the first place. It should have been amply clear that, with the current moral climate being what it is in some pockets of the United States, covering a medication which can very easily (and rightly) have the connotation of “abortion” attached to it, was just an insensitive and foolish mistake. The conflict could have been pre-empted. Without that particular medication on the list, I don’t think that the ruling would have gone as it did, and the Hobby Lobby may not even have pushed it this far. It may sound a little callous, but if all other forms of conventional birth control are covered, in a case where a woman requires a “morning after” pill, she or her partner could probably cough up the cash to acquire it. Now, conservative employers have been given the means to withhold much more than that one contraceptive option. (…I think. I’m not finding that particular information anywhere, so it is possible that I am wrong and it is buried in the spin and rhetoric that is also trying to bury the facts I’m illuminating above.)
Finally, let me say that Hobby Lobby may have bitten off more than it can chew. With their company in the media spotlight, there are a lot of customers that are going to show displeasure with their pocket books. Even in conservative areas of the country, the political demographics are still pretty split. The heart of their business locations, even if they are in areas with a majority of conservatives, are likely to see a major drop in business. Even if it is 25%, that’s a hefty bite out of your profit margin. Given that they conduct a fair chunk of their business with on-line orders, I guarantee that the bottom line is likely to get a good solid kick. There may be a rally of support from their like minded customers at the beginning, but eventually, I feel, this company is doomed. Maybe God can save them …