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SCOTUS Says: Religion > Corporations/People > Women

The Supreme Court announced its decision on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores today. It was… kind of a kick in the gut.

Let’s break it down in really super simple terms. The family that owns Hobby Lobby did not want to pay for birth control that they felt implicated them in abortions.  Because Jesus trumps science.  The five conservative men in SCOTUS gave them a high five today. Said five men tried to tell us all that they only wanted to give Hobby Lobby a high five, but it’s possible that what they really did was run the length of several football fields with adoring fans lining them on either side eagerly holding up their hands in hopes of also getting a high five.

Now let’s explore some of the nuances here:

PROBLEM 1: WHY ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT ABORTION?

The owners of Hobby Lobby aren’t actually opposed to birth control.  The ACA requires health insurance to cover 20 types of birth control. Hobby Lobby is happy to cover 16 of them. They don’t want to cover the other 4 – IUD and morning after pill types – because they are pretty sure those are actually abortion measures.

 

Which is ridiculous, of course.  Neither IUDs nor the morning after pill will abort an established pregnancy. They will prevent a fertilized egg from becoming an established pregnancy.  NEWFLASH: that is how all birth control pills work.  I mean, I guess if you want to argue that a fertilized egg is a pregnancy and so all birth control pills are abortion pills… at 1782079_10154366821635393_4190882912276093877_nleast you’d be consistent.  Of course, you’re still wrong.  There is a reason why it is not considered pregnancy until the fertilized egg embeds in the lining of the uterus.  And that is because a fertilized egg on its own will do never become a life.  And, quite frankly, the average woman who is sexually active and having unprotected sex around the time her body ovulates is probably experiencing these fertilized eggs that are just passing through about every month she has a period.  Because biology.

So, like, why are we talking about this again?

PROBLEM 2: SCOTUS SETS PRECEDENTS

Seriously, that’s their job.  I think it is really cute that Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion, because he really wanted to drive home the idea that this ruling ONLY APPLIED TO THIS CASE.  He said it was a “ticket for one day only.” LOL.

I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything, but that’s not how this works, Kennedy. Like, you don’t just get to say that no one will ever look at this case again and use it to determine future rulings. YOU’RE SCOTUS.  The whole point of you is to set precedent for the nation to follow. There are already companies lining up, chomping at the bit to apply this decision to their own cases.


 

 

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And there is a bigger issue at play here.  It has previously been decided that when an employer (before now, nonprofit religious based ones) was not going to pay for access to birth control, that the cost would be passed onto the insurance company.  With this plan employers avoid being complicit in evil, and women still get access to all the health care options they need.  Win, win. EXCEPT, the employer is first required to fill out and submit a form to the insurance company, letting them know the situation and thereby giving the go ahead for the insurance to pay for the birth control out of their own pocket.  *Obviously* no insurance company in this great nation is going to go about making sure women have access to more healthcare when they are not legally obligated to do so.  That’s not their M.O.

But now some of these organizations are saying that they don’t want to fill out the forms that would kick start the birth control failsafe.  They are saying that even filling out that form will make them complicit in the using of the birth control.  A case is already making its way to SCOTUS about this. The majority opinion in the current case is going to affect upcoming cases like that one.  They can’t pretend it won’t.  Well, I guess they can *can* pretend it, because they are pretending it… but it just isn’t reasonable.  SCOTUS cases aren’t decided in vacuums.

PROBLEM 3: CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE. WOMEN, NOT SO MUCH. PROBABLY NOT THE GAYS EITHER.

You know how women are actual living people?  Well, because of their reproductive organs they continue to lose rights to things that have been delegated legal personhood, even though they are not actual living people.  Weird, right?

Source: Sarah Baker on Twitter @bakerbk

Source: Sarah Baker on Twitter @bakerbk

And please don’t start slut shaming and telling women they should just not have sex.  Most of the women that use birth control are married or monogamous mothers, who are either waiting to have their next child or have decided not to have more.  So, they are unlikely to stop having sex with their partners just because you’re all stuck on this idea that the only women who use birth control are promiscuous.

And if you don’t believe this is an issue about women, please consider that vasectomies for men have never been in question.  And, hey men, if the idea of a vasectomy gets you down, your Viagra is also covered.

And let’s not forget that whether businesses are allowed to deny services to LGBT people or same sex couples is still a hot debate.  What is argued by the majority opinion in this case could easily be applied to cases about LGBT discrimination.  Things don’t look real good for their personhood either.

PROBLEM 4: BUT WHAT IF YOU BELIEVE…?

SCOTUS throws around the term slippery slope a lot, and I wish they’d done more of that in this case.  Ginsberg gets the idea, though.  In her dissent on the case she wrote, “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.” And, “Would the exemption … extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]… Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”

These two ideas, in combination, are super problematic.  For-profit corporations will employ people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs.  Can the owners of the corporations then turn around and make health care for their employees based upon their own beliefs?

Not yet. And maybe not ever. But it is not off the table, and it should be.

Remember the war on religion?  Are conservatives still pretending that is a thing?

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Comments

  1. This post is quite flawed in its legal analysis. The Supreme Court did not say this decision applied only to Hobby Lobby, it is setting vital precedent on the nature of RFRA and on the constitutionality of the mandate. However,several facts likely limit the ruling. First, the court only applied it to closely held corporations so publicly traded corporations would not be affected. Second, contraception was pretty unique because the administration already offered an accommodation to some but not all religious entities. Thus, it was relatively easy to conclude that there was a less restrictive alternative readily available. This isn’t true with other services. Thus, the employer fighting against blood transfusions has a far more difficult burden.

    Finally, Hobby Lobby has not objected to the compromise that the administration is currently offering to churches and others. It has not been offered this compromise. I think the court is likely to conclude that this is a reasonable faith accommodation and that there isn’t really a less restrictive mean for providing these services. Indeed, Justice Alito suggested as much in his opinion.

    • Actually, both Alito and Kennedy wrote in the majority and concurring opinions that this decision was only meant for this case. You’re right that it will be broadly applied, but are wrong that they are claiming otherwise.

      And no, Hobby Lobby has not accepted the compromise–they haven’t denied it either, but that is because they don’t need to either way. They are actually self insured – meaning they don’t use a third party insurer. So they will simply opt not to offer the birth controls they find offensive. There will be no other insurance company to step up for their employees, who will just be out of luck if they need those specific birth controls for the myriad of medical reasons that many women do need them.

      • lyndeeh says:

        I guess I’m confused. What’s wrong with their employees using the birth controls that are covered by the companies insurances? Side note, I am a married woman who uses forms other than birth control and abstinence to prevent pregnancy. Of course I advocate for insurance companies to cover birth control, but I am able to prevent pregnancies without it (my youngest is almost nine).

        • Leah Marie said, “They are actually self insured – meaning they don’t use a third party insurer.” In this case Hobby Lobby = Insurance Company.
          “What’s wrong with their employees using the birth controls that are covered[?]” You should ask yourself why does more than one type of birth control even exist? Many have off-label uses (e.g. acne treatment, hormone therapy, etc.), so there is a large chunk of people using birth control who consider actual birth control a mere side effect. Regardless, it’s a highly personal decision and people want to be able to choose the one that works best for them. The bottom line is a corporation really isn’t the best one to be making the choice for individuals.

        • I’m in agreement with CG that a corporation should just not be making this choice for individuals, period.

          BUT, the choices in question are primarily IUDs and morning after pills. There are valid medical reasons that many, many women need to use the non-hormonal method of IUDs. The may have a medical condition that is affected by hormones in birth control pills. They may be taking medication for something else that is contraindicated to the hormones in birth control pills. Or maybe it is just that they are breastfeeding and prefer a method that doesn’t affect their milk supply. The morning after pill is generally not a planned for event. And there are also many reasons why it would be necessary outside of “one night stand”. There are just lots of reason why women might find themselves needing these options, and not being able to afford them.

  2. I guess Hobby Lobby employees who don’t want to pay for IUDs or other forms of contraceptive not covered by their health plan will either have to do without or find a new job working for a company that offers the health coverage they desire. Pretty standard choice when it comes to health care coverage.

    FREE TIP: you shouldn’t lead with “Because Jesus trumps science.” It rather effectively kills your credibility, thanks to Constitutional Amendment #1.

    • I guess the employees can just head right out to the job store and tell the clerks there that they would like a job that they are qualified for that also provides all of the benefits they need. Easy peasey.

      Or maybe in this economy, it is actually really cruel to suggest that low-skilled workers just need to go find another job. Perhaps you have no idea how hard that actually is.

      • Let’s stop with the “in this economy” stuff. Check out where the Dow ended today.

        Anyway, they have other options besides quitting their job. They can pay for the needed, but uncovered, birth control options. Or they can do without it.

        • Oh, heaven help me. I wish I lived in your world where everything is so easy for everyone.

        • Sarcastically dismissing counter arguments doesn’t win you points. FYI.

          Anyway, if having the uncovered birth control is so absolutely necessary, I’m sure whoever needs it will find a way to get it. Jumping to the conclusion that this case defines women as “Meh” is an overreach.

        • Oh shoot. Did I lose points with you? Dang, I was really trying to win you over.

          LOL j/k I could not care less. What you’re seeing here is how easily bored I get in conversations when the other party insists that something isn’t a problem because it is not a problem for *them*. I have no patience for it.

  3. “FREE TIP: you shouldn’t lead with “Because Jesus trumps science.” It rather effectively kills your credibility, thanks to Constitutional Amendment #1.”

    Who are you talking to?

    • I was talking to the person who wrote that sentence, ie. the author of this post.

      • I was being sarcastic. That is in no way something I believe.

        • Yes, I caught the sarcasm, but you were trying to make a point with that comment. Here’s what you wrote, in context:

          “Let’s break it down in really super simple terms. The family that owns Hobby Lobby did not want to pay for birth control that they felt implicated them in abortions. Because Jesus trumps science.”

          You sarcastically said that the family has religious beliefs, and that essentially killed the rest of your argument, because freedom of religion is a constitutional right. Nothing you wrote after that had any meaning.

        • Wow. You have colossally missed the point.

        • Oh.

        • The point colossally missed must have been forgotten.

  4. Not sure I frame this one the same way…it’s not a matter of Hobby Lobby choosing what employees can and can’t do with their bodies, etc.. It is a matter of the owners of Hobby Lobby being able to choose what they do with their property/money/resources.

    • Nope. Employer based healthcare is not actually a free service employers offer. They take the money required out of their employees paychecks. Healthcare is, sadly, just actually part of the compensation for a hard day’s work (I do wish it were considered a human right). Hobby Lobby is actually telling their employees what to do with the employees’ property/money/resources.

      • I don’t know the details of Hobby Lobby, but most employers pay a much larger share of the monthly premium than the employee pays. Maybe somewhere in the 80% range? (And the coverage is very overpriced.) So I think it is a valid argument to say that the employer should be able to choose how that money is spent and for what kind of coverage.

      • Nope. Employers pay the bulk of health insurance premiums for their employees.

        • It’s actually one of the largest expenses most employers face.

        • Oh, you guys don’t get it. Of course employers pay premiums. And to make up for that cost they pay their employees less. It is still considered part of the compensation the employee receives. It is still essentially paid for by the employee with labor.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Hobby Lobby decision has been covered pretty extensively. I think Leah Marie  did a great job on Approaching Justice. It doesn’t leave me much room to add […]

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