We Have To Stop Calling The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case A “Religious Victory”

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We have to stop calling the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case a "religious victory"

Hobby Lobby has been blowing up my newsfeed.

 

With the cry of religious victory, Hobby Lobby has celebrated a favorable resolution in their landmark Supreme Court case.

 

This case was Hobby Lobby v. Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services. This case was tried alongside Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga asserted their belief that religious conviction ought to outweigh the legal mandate to provide all forms of FDA-approved contraception to female employees.

 

Before we begin, a disclaimer: I am not here to discuss the Affordable Care Act. As far as I’m concerned, it’s already been passed into law, so there’s no use fighting over something that won’t be changed today. Should the ACA ever be repealed, we can have another conversation about that issue then. For today, the focus is on the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Supreme Court case alone.

 

As the Supreme Court case has been dominating my twitter feed and Facebook wall this week, I have to admit I’ve done a pretty poor job of holding my tongue. I honestly tried not to get too involved, but one Facebook status and two pointed (and admittedly bitter) tweets later, I found myself in the middle of a twitter war with Hobby Lobby’s supporters.

It’s been an interesting few days.

From this experience, I learned one crucial lesson: Major social change will not happen through Twitter and Facebook.

 

Ok, “learned” implies I didn’t already know this lesson. I know fighting through Facebook comments and posting passive-aggressive tweets won’t accomplish anything substantial.

(How much social change can really be brought about in 140 characters?)

 

That being said, I still wanted to lay out my position in the hopes of clearing up a few misconceptions about this case and its ramifications.

 

In case you were unaware, Hobby Lobby’s stance is that they should not be required to “participate in, provide access to, pay for, train others to engage in, or otherwise support abortion-causing drugs and devices.”

They claim the 4 prescription medications they’re fighting against – two emergency contraceptives (Plan B and Ella) and two intra-uterine devices (IUDs) – are abortion-inducing and therefore violate their religious beliefs.

 

If you’ve heard the term “abortifacient” thrown around, it’s simply “a medication or substance that causes pregnancy to end prematurely.” The most common prescription abortifacient is Mifepristone, otherwise known as RU-486.

 

But we’re not discussing RU-486. In fact, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t require companies to pay for RU-486 at all.

 

The only 4 medications Hobby Lobby and Conestoga have a problem with are the 4 previously mentioned.

 

Two emergency contraceptives and two IUDs.

 

 

And that, folks, is the single biggest issue I have with this ruling – in fact, with the case itself.

 

Nowhere throughout the entire hearing did the Supreme Court stop to question these two corporations’ definitions of an “abortion-inducing” drug or device.

 

While I have my own personal doubts about Hobby Lobby’s true motivation in this case, I cannot personally speak to the Green family’s heart.

Their motives aside, the Supreme Court accepted the Green’s claim that these four medications are, in fact, abortifacients, despite overwhelming medical evidence to the contrary.

 

The difference between “emergency contraception” and “abortion-inducing”

Plan-B has been around since the 1990’s, and has been proven time and again to be simply another method of contraception. There’s a reason it’s only prescribed within the first 72 hours after sexual activity. In fact, if the medication fails to prevent pregnancy, there’s no evidence to suggest it hurts the baby in any way. Plan B simply prevents an egg from being fertilized, in addition to disrupting the uterine wall. In case the egg is fertilized by the time Plan B is taken, it will not be able to adhere to the uterine wall and an embryo will not form.

Ella is relatively new (it only became FDA-approved in 2010), but it too has been proven to be only a contraceptive. While some evidence suggests Ella can be used to force an early-term abortion in certain situations, such as being taken in extreme doses far past what would ever be prescribed by a medical professional, it is still simply an emergency contraceptive. If every medication with the potential to force an abortion when taken in extreme doses were labeled an “abortifacient,” Hobby Lobby’s list would have to be far longer than 4 line items.

 

And finally, the question of IUDs. Since the 1980’s, IUDs have been proven to be only a form of blocking egg implantation, not causing abortions. So why would Hobby Lobby throw IUDs in with emergency contraception under the label of “abortion-inducing?”

Justice Ginsberg answered that question in her dissent:

“Notably, the corporations exclude intrauterine devices (IUDs), devices significantly more effective, and significantly more expensive than other contraceptive methods…It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage – that almost one-third of women would change their contraceptive method if costs were not a factor.”

The bottom line? IUDs are more effective, but more expensive. Like I said before, I’m not here to discuss Hobby Lobby’s motives.

I just find it interesting that they would throw IUDs under the label “abortifacient” despite decades of research to the contrary.

 

So, why do I care so much about this issue? After all, I’m not an employee of Hobby Lobby. My employer (as far as I know) isn’t about to stop covering my contraceptive of choice.

 

I care because this case sets a dangerous precedent.

 

Again, I go back to Justice Ginsberg’s dissent. In the beginning, she references a previous ACA amendment (nicknamed the “conscience amendment”). She states:

“The Senate voted down the so-called “conscience amendment,” which would have enabled any employer or insurance provider to deny coverage based on its asserted “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” That amendment, Senator Mikulski observed, would have “pu[t] the personal opinion of employers and insurers over the practice of medicine.”

And that is the danger of this ruling.

 

This decision did not only set a precedent that corporations can deny their employee’s health care coverage for religious reasons (a scary thought in its own right), but that the corporations themselves get to decide what defines a “violation” of their beliefs.

As we see in this case, the Greens decided emergency contraception and IUDs are abortifacients.

Despite medical professionals and international medical organizations presenting evidence to the contrary, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga decided these medications induce abortions, and therefore shouldn’t have to be covered.

 

The question isn’t whether Hobby Lobby is evil or or whether those against the ruling are abortion-loving sex addicts.

 

It’s the fact that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga either
1. Put little to no research into these contraceptive methods before determining their religious views compel them to deny affordable access to their employees
or
2. This isn’t an issue of religious conviction at all, and Hobby Lobby is using Christianity to deny their employees certain contraception in the name of saving a few extra bucks

 

Certain contraception which is used to treat legitimate medical conditions, not only used to prevent pregnancy. In fact, the use of contraception has been proven to both reduce the risk of cancer and to treat a long list of other health problems, most notably polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

 

As someone who has suffered from PCOS, and who currently uses contraception as a treatment for this condition, I can tell you I’m blessed and grateful to no longer have to shell out an entire day’s pay simply to afford one medication.

And if anyone hasn’t experienced the joys of PCOS for themselves, imagine a large, sharp rock lodged right below your stomach. A rock that won’t pass, and might go away for a few weeks, but will certainly return every month. A rock that makes every cough and sneeze feel like your body is trying to stab you to death from the inside out.

It’s not a fun condition.

Personally, the only relief came when I began taking birth control. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve been able to afford contraception even before it was covered by my employer.

 

Other women aren’t so lucky.

 

The following is an excerpt from a Huffington Post article, which tells the stories of various women needing access to affordable contraception. Once you’ve finished reading this post, you should head over and read the stories for yourself.

I don’t take birth control to prevent myself from getting pregnant — as a matter of fact, I don’t have sex.
I take it because I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I have very irregular periods, sometimes they’re very heavy and I have male-pattern facial hair growth because of that, and I take the pill for the hormones, which help regulate that. It makes my symptoms much lighter, and it makes me not have a goatee, like a man.
Before I had insurance, it was $130 a month for the pill, so it was a huge issue: Do I live with these symptoms and put up with it, or do I not make my rent this month so I can live a normal life? Now, I have health insurance through an Obamacare plan and it costs me $4 a month.

–Channing, 28, Kentucky

Unfortunately, Channing’s story is typical.

Hundreds of thousands of women in the childbearing age range are living at or below the poverty line. Before ACA, they could not afford necessary medication to treat legitimate health problems.

Even making above minimum wage, it’s tough to pay over $100 a month, every month, for one medication.

 

Like I said, I’m not here to debate the ACA – that’s another post for another time.

 

I’m here to call attention to the fact that this issue isn’t as simple as “go buy your own contraception – nobody’s stopping you.”

 

Without their employer covering contraception, many women cannot afford this medication at all. Lack of access to affordable contraception significantly impairs both their quality of life and their reproductive health.

This ruling established a precedent that corporations can deny health care coverage that interferes with their “religious beliefs,” and the corporations themselves get to decide what that means.

So where does it end?

Justice Ginsberg continues:

“Hobby Lobby and Conestoga surely do not stand alone as commercial enterprises seeking exemptions from generally applicable laws on the basis of their religious beliefs. See, e.g., Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 941,945 (SC 1966) (owner of restaurant chain refused to serve black patrons based on his religious beliefs opposing racial integration), aff’d in relevant part and rev’d in part on other grounds…How does the Court divine which religious beliefs are worthy of accommodation, and which are not?…Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993] demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives 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 (Christian Scientists, among others)? According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, “each one of theses cases…would have to be evaluated on its own…apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test.”…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”

 

The simple fact is, the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent with today’s ruling.

“Indeed, until today, religious exemptions had never been extended to any entity operating in “the commercial, profit-making world (Ginsberg).”

 

As Christians, we have to understand the far-reaching ramifications of this type of ruling.

 

Either way, we have to stop looking at this ruling as a “religious victory.” This ruling is a danger to women’s health in the national dialog and especially in the Church.

To deny any woman any form of medical coverage under the basis of religious liberty without accurately portraying the medicine you’re denying is a dangerous misrepresentation of the Church and women’s reproductive health issues.

 

Honestly, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are more-or-less irrelevant to the larger issue voted on this week. In a few months, most will have moved on to bigger, shinier news stories.

 

Unfortunately, the employees of Hobby Lobby and any other corporation ready to claim “religious freedom” from providing certain health care options are the ones about to face the lasting battle.

 

What if it were your antidepressants denied?

Or your child’s vaccinations?

Your spouse’s blood transfusion?

 

We have to stop looking at this as a Christian vs. Non-Christian debate.

We have to stop looking at this as a war on abortion or the pro-lifers (especially considering the medications included in the ruling are not abortifacients).

We have to stop letting religion and politics become so intertwined, or we risk opening ourselves up to “religious victories” we’re less-than-thrilled with.

 

Until the next big religious battle, at least keep the fighting off Facebook and Twitter.

A hashtag never won a war.

 

Instead, leave a comment letting me know your opinion on the matter. Agree or disagree, I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts. I won’t publish comments that violate my comment policy, but if you’re respectful and honest, I would love to begin a dialog.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Photo Credit: Ken Teegardin and Wylio

 

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Comment Policy:

I really would love to hear every person’s opinion, but I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to abusive comments. If you’re going to leave a comment, just keep it respectful and we won’t have a problem.

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  • Angela

    I have to disagree with your assessment of abortifacients. If you believe that human life begins at fertilization, and the deliberately ending of that life is murder ( and these are sincerely held, thoughtful beliefs of many) then the IUD is in fact a cause of ‘abortions.’
    Now maybe you and many others believe life does not begin until implantation, or later, so you don’t have a problem with the pill, morning after pill, or the IUD. And maybe your beliefs are every bit as sincere, or even more correct! — but controversy over these methods of birth control have been around at least since the early 1980’s and plenty of pro-life people have spoken out against them because they know how they work,and specifically because of how they work, and it’s pretty insulting to say they haven’t done their research, or that they don’t know what they are talking about because the medical definition or your definition of ‘abortifacient’ may be different. (Always important to define your terms.)
    Also comparing not wanting to contribute to what you believe is murder of children, to not serving blacks or paying for antidepressants or whatever is not really valid. Maybe they are totally wrong, and it is not murder, but we are talking about them not wanting to feel they are supporting murder, which is bigger than just about any other issue. You cannnot force a doctor to perform abortions just because he chose to become a doctor and get a medical license, so why should you force someone to pay for what they feel are abortions just because they started a company and want to hire people to work for them?
    I don’t know whether the decision will turn out to be good or bad in the long run for medical care. The system is already completely corrupt by third party insurance companies making decisions about what they will pay for and how much. The women with PCOS probably could not get coverage to find out from a good biomedical specialist what is really the root of their systemic problem and correct their hormonal imbalances and become truly healthy, because insurance companies will sometimes only pay for their band-aid pill that helps the symptoms. I am glad they can get something that helps them feel better, but it would be better if they could actually be cured and perhaps many would be if our medical systems were designed to truly heal.
    Why should any company or business be forced to pay for anyones medical care anyway? Companies started doing it as an extra perk to attract skilled workers, but now they are forced to? What’s just about that? Why should any person be stuck with only the care some company will pay for — whether their employer’s company or the insurance company? Insurance companies are out to make a profit and they make millions on the backs of doctors and workers. THose who are healthy are forced to subsidize not just the sick, but all those middle men. We need to go back to each person paying directly for their own care to the provider of their choice, and if it stays so expensive that lots of people can’t afford it, then charities can assist the poor, and companies, if they choose to, can contribute to medical accounts. If companies stopped paying for medical insurance at all, they could raise wages or lower prices which would benefit everyone, especially the poor, and free up money for direct payment for medical services. Medical prices would drop as costs go down and prices become realistic based on the real cost of treatment vs. what the insurance will pay. There are conscientious doctors out there already that don’t accept insurance at all because they recognize the corruption of the system and how they can charge people much less and practice real medicine if they don’t have to jump through insurance hoops and hire an army of assistants to wade through the paperwork.

    You may not agree with my thoughts but I include them to show that this is a very compicated issue. And its never ok for the government to start forcing folks to violate their consciences. Did you know that there are churches that don’t have to participate in the Social Security system becuase they stood against it from the beginning? They said “We take care of our own elderly quite well, thank you!.” Our Quaker ancesters, among others, went to jail and death for the right to not swear oaths, take their hats off to ‘superiors,’ fight in wars, and the right to not go to the state church and they practically invented religious freedom and freedom of conscience for the entire Western world. I may not agree with all of their positions but I am glad they were adamant about them. I am more free as a direct result. I hope that will be the result of Hobby Lobby’s stand even if they are wrong about the IUD — that we will all be more free as a result.

    • MeganInTheRealWorld

      Thanks again for your response, Angela!

      As I said in the beginning, my definition of abortifacient is “a medication or substance that causes pregnancy to end prematurely,” but you’re right, I should have defined pregnancy as well to further clarify my position. I do consider pregnancy to begin after implantation, and IUD’s have been proven to block fertilization entirely, rather than destroy a fertilized egg, in almost all cases. That is my reasoning behind not considering an IUD an abortifacient.

      I also completely agree that our medical system is screwed up. It’s ridiculous that an average American cannot afford basic medication without a substantial contribution from insurance coverage. I’m actually opposed to the Affordable Care Act myself, for a number of different reasons. My point in this article was to discuss the issue of picking and choosing contraceptive coverage because I know how quickly we can devolve into a debate over the legality/constitutionality of the ACA.

      As I also said, I don’t know the Greens’ hearts. They may have gone into this case 100% motivated by their belief that these drugs cause abortions and that their company shouldn’t have to pay for them. The bigger issue here is that this isn’t a non-profit organization we’re discussing. We’re not talking about a church or a charity, as you mentioned. We’re talking about a for-profit corporation.

      As I’m sure is very clear, I’m a Christian and believe Christian business owners should operate their businesses as Christ would. I also believe corporations ought to be bound by the law. Whether Hobby Lobby or any other company should be forced to pay for medical coverage is not really the issue we’re discussing, because it’s already the law. The danger comes when a court is establishing a precedent that companies can pick and choose which laws to follow, or which parts of each law to follow, based on their religious convictions.

      In this specific case, for Christians who define pregnancy as you do (beginning at fertilization), I can see why this would be considered a win. For the country as a whole, regardless of religion or denomination, this is a very scary situation. The point I was making in the antidepressants comparison is that the court didn’t set a precedent saying “Christian companies don’t have to follow laws contrary to their belief system, as stated in the Bible.” The precedent is saying companies run by CEO’s (or founders, etc) of ANY religion can refuse to follow ANY law which conflicts with their religious beliefs, and by the way that company gets to pick and choose exactly what those laws and beliefs are.

      It’s not for the courts to decide which beliefs are “strongly held.” As you said, the Greens could be totally adamant in their convictions and this could have been carried out with the purest of intentions. The danger comes when the next for-profit company decides another part of a law conflicts with their “religious beliefs,” and the court has to make a decision Christians are less than pleased with.