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(Mis)understanding the Hobby Lobby Ruling

supreme courtOn Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a controversial ruling exempting craft store Hobby Lobby (as well as three other businesses) from a portion of the HHS mandate of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare). SCOTUS said that due to their religious objection, they do not have to provide employees with insurance coverage for certain abortifacient drugs and devices (Plan B, Ella, and two types of IUDs). The internet was abuzz with comments about this decision. Some of the ones I saw were so outlandish that they made me laugh out loud (before I cried). A common element was a complete lack of understanding. As is standard in today’s social-media-saturated world, people seem to be parroting what they read or hear, without any facts to back up their impassioned viewpoints. It doesn’t help that the news media and the President himself also have been spreading misinformation.

At first, I wanted to write a post making fun of the crazy comments I encountered. I was in disbelief as to the level of ignorance (ie lack of understanding/knowledge) people were displaying. In response, I was full of snark and was ready to unleash it on the world through this post. However, mean-spirited snark is not really our style at CS. So, instead of making fun of people, I want to call on our readers to pray for the ignorant. I want us especially to pray for those who are willfully ignorant because honesty with themselves and others would be too painful. I want us to pray for those whose intellects have been so darkened by the sin in their lives that they truly are unable to have a rational conversation about contraceptives and abortifacients. Most importantly, I want us to pray for people whose hearts are full of hatred and violence over this issue. Some of the comments I read were far from funny – they were chilling. People sincerely want to bring harm upon Hobby Lobby’s CEOs, and those who support them, simply because they are defending conscience rights. Apparently, it’s a heinous, unforgivable transgression to stand in the way of women getting their abortifacient drugs for free. This ruling has revealed a lot of darkness in a lot of hearts, and it is truly scary.

I also want to look at this in a practical way, addressing some of the misunderstandings (or perhaps lies) that are being bandied about. The following are the ill-informed notions about this ruling that I saw expressed most often, and my responses to them

1. This decision is about all birth control. This is by the far the biggest inaccuracy being presented as fact. Most of the hysteria over the decision stems from people thinking (or pretending to think) that the SCOTUS ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to provide coverage for any contraception. This is simply false. Hobby Lobby has no objection to most forms of birth control. Their insurance provides coverage for 16 different types of very common contraceptives. This ruling was about certain drugs and devices that have a high probability of preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. These are abortifacients because, regardless of what they are now teaching in medical school in deference to the abortion industry, life beings at conception (not implantation). The owners of Hobby Lobby are not Catholic and do not take the Catholic position on contraception; they do not acknowledge that hormonal contraceptives have the potential to prevent implantation. Therefore, all the foaming at the mouth about women not getting coverage for their birth control is unwarranted. We do hope that in future religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court, religious employers will be exempt from providing coverage for all contraceptives, in accordance with their beliefs. But we have not yet crossed that bridge.

We need to make sure we keep this fact at the forefront of any discussion about this ruling. When people complain that Hobby Lobby is willing to cover Viagra and vasectomies and is therefore discriminating against women for not covering their “sexual health needs,” we need to understand how this is off-base. Viagra and vasectomies do not disrupt the development of an already-conceived child and are therefore completely incomparable; and Hobby Lobby’s insurance covers tubal ligations.

2. This means women who work for Hobby Lobby will no longer be able to use contraception. This is an off-shoot of the Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Case Challenging Affordable Care Act
misunderstanding that this ruling is about all contraception. But let’s pretend for a moment that it is about all contraception. This ruling does not prevent women from obtaining or using any drugs or devices – not even the ones that the ruling was actually about. Just because Hobby Lobby does not want to pay for a certain drug or device does not mean it is unattainable, or that they are policing employees’ bedrooms to make sure they are not using it. Women are free to use whatever birth control, and even abortifacients, that they want – on their own dime. Is it really such a horrible prospect that people pay for their own sexual choices, especially considering how today’s mantra is that it’s no one else’s business what people do in their bedrooms? (By the way, if you don’t want your boss in your bedroom, then stop demanding that he subsidize what goes on in there).

Some related inaccurate notions are that the SCOTUS is allowing employers to force their religious beliefs on employees, or to force them to bear unwanted children. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. It is the government (and enraged feminists everywhere) who want to force people to do something, ie., monetarily participate in something that they sincerely believe to be immoral.

3. Employees of Hobby Lobby who currently have insurance coverage for these drugs and devices are suddenly going to lose access. This is, once again, mostly related to the idea that Hobby Lobby wanted to get rid of coverage for all contraceptives. People are very upset to think of women suddenly having to pay for their own birth control when previously they were getting it for a small copay or for free. But even if this claim were made about the drugs and devices to which Hobby Lobby objects, it’s still off-base. I initially was under the impression that Hobby Lobby never offered coverage for these drugs and devices. However, I read today that they used to do so, but stopped in 2012, shortly before they filed this lawsuit. They claim they did not realize they had this coverage, and once they did realize, they did not want the government to force them to keep it. I have no choice but to take them at their word, and it doesn’t actually matter why they dropped it. The point is that the loss of coverage has already happened and employees have had two years to adjust to it (and if they were hired since 2012, they have never known anything different). They will not suddenly lose any coverage.

The same is true of employees of Catholic organizations who object to providing any contraceptives. They never had this coverage in the first place, and the plea of their employers is that they be able to keep the status quo, not to make a huge and sudden change to their health insurance offerings.

4. This is a violation of women’s rights. This claim is so ludicrous to me that I don’t know how to address it any other way than to say that no one has a right to free birth control or abortifacients. There is nothing in our Constitution that guarantees anyone all the sterile sex that they want to have, on someone else’s dime. You know what is a right, though? Practicing one’s religion without government interference, absent a very compelling State interest. Unfortunately, some people do seem to think that it’s a compelling State interest that men and women be able to have consequence-free sex at no expense to themselves, but I think that the SCOTUS has just blasted a hole in that argument.

Sadly, there are many more points of misinformation that I could cover, but I surpassed my target word count a few [hundred] words ago. So this will have to suffice for now.

I spent way too much time over the past few days trying to have rational conversations with people about this issue, without seeming to have borne any good fruit. These attempts at conversation served mostly to disturb my peace and cause me to think unkind thoughts about others. So I encourage you to be careful if and when you choose to engage others on this topic. If you find yourself starting to become as angry as they are, step away. If time constraints force you to choose between praying about this issue and discussing it, choose prayer. And remember that this battle is not only not about contraception, it’s also not really about abortifacients. This battle is about religious freedom, which is one of the principles upon which this country was founded but something that is becoming more and more endangered and despised. Additionally, it’s a battle against the damage done by the Sexual Revolution, which enshrined in our society the concept that birth control and abortion are as important to our lives as food and water. In this battle, our ultimate enemy is not the stranger in the combox, or even the government. Our enemy is The Enemy, against whom we’ve been fighting since the dawn of time. He’s pretty clever and crafty, so please be vigilant; but remember who was, is, and always will be The Victor.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.