U.S. Supreme Court decision, Hobby Lobby and contraception coverage…

Posted: June 30, 2014 in Current Events, politics, Religion

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 …

  1. rod says:

    The morning after pill does not cause abortions. .. it actually prevents pregnancy. This is a common mistake that people make with regards to the pill. If the people objecting it were to take a little time to understand what it does then their would be no objection.

    • pwiinholt says:

      That’s only because “pregnancy” is defined legally as when the fertilized egg embeds in the uterus, and the pill (along with the IUD) prevents this. However, I don’t think it is unreasonable for a Christian person concerned with this defining pregnancy and the beginning of life as conception. The pill does not prevent conception. The hair splitting becomes ours when we do that. To these Christians, a fertilized egg being purposely prevented from embedding is an abortion, and while I don’t necessarily agree with them, I think that trying to twist their argument on a technicality is not fair.
      Personally I don’t agree with any of the beliefs of the Christian right that are objecting to this. However, I do understand what that belief is. I understand why birth control like BT Pills or condoms are covered as they prevent greater health issues from arising. However, given the sensitivity of the abortion issue, I really think that it would have been more tactful to leave the morning after pill ouit of the list of insured medications. Surly, if needed, the medication can be paid for by the individual. I think that had that been done, there would have been a far better chance that the challenge decision would have gone the other way.

      • rod says:

        Well. …. preventing fertilized egg attaching is one of the 3 ways that it works. Personally I don’t believe that the pill is the source of contreversy but it was merely used as their argument. They just don’t want to provide any contraception. I disagree that maybe the pill should have been left out though. One c of the uses of the pill is for rape victims and to tell a rape victim they have to now pay for the pill is extremely insulting. The big issue I have with this is that it is to accomodate the religious belief… but I don’t see it as accomodating the belief. If pill goes against their beliefs then they don’t have to take it. This is about imposing your beliefs on others that do not share them. Providing the coverage does not go against a single religious belief.

  2. pwiinholt says:

    I agree with almost all that you are saying.
    However I think that from the point of view of the court finding, it would have been much harder to argue in favor of Hobby Lobby had there been no hint of abortion. They still would have tried to challenge the law, but the owners don’t seem to smart, seeing as their 401K seems to invest in the very companies they are protesting. They were led into it by the Becket Fund. It is clearly as political as it is religious.
    I also believe that being insensitive to the beliefs of a large group of religious right people is not a productive stance. If it can be avoided or does not really cause any significant harm, than there should be a dose of strategic respect shown. Just look at what’s happened as a consequence here. As for the rape scenario, I’m sure there is a doctor prescribed medication, which could be covered, that wouldn’t involve an off the shelf pill.

  3. pwiinholt says:

    I guess what it boils down to is that when there are a variety of solutions to a problem which are relatively equal in effectiveness, then it doesn’t make sense to include one that is of particular controversy to a significant world view. If there are only those controversial choices, like in the case of a rape victim, then doing any hing necessary to respect the rights of the victim totally justified. In cases where alternatives are available, then there is no need to force people to act against their world view. The reactionary kickback you get is not worthwhile, seldom productive and in the long run only serves to make them more entrenched in their beliefs.

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