Shame on SCOTUS. Its recent 5-4 ruling to allow the owners of Hobby Lobby and other closely held, for-profit enterprises to deny certain types of reproductive health care to its women employees moves society backwards.
The court decided that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could not enforce a requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) for non-exempt employers to offer, on a no cost sharing basis, all the FDA approved forms of contraception including the so-called “morning after pill.” The basis of that decision was that:
1. Hobby Lobby, given the religious convictions of its owners, has rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) making analogies to churches and other religious nonprofit organizations recognized in the legislation.
2. The government was too burdensome on Hobby Lobby’s religious freedom and could have affected the desired outcome of free contraceptive care in less restrictive ways as required under the RFRA.
First of all, let’s be absolutely clear that Hobby Lobby is not a church. Its purpose is commerce, not the saving of anyone’s soul, including those of its owners or women employees.
Second of all, let’s also be absolutely clear that Hobby Lobby is not a person. Hobby Lobby does not have religious beliefs, it has scrapbooking supplies, sidewalk chalk, model cars, flower arrangements and picture frames.
And finally, it is up to our government, not the founding families of successful hobby supply stores, to determine how to meet the compelling health care requirements of our country’s citizens. It is our government’s job acting as our representatives to “promote the general welfare.” It is Hobby Lobby’s job to provide leisure time goods for sale, pay its suppliers and employees and generate an economic profit for its owners.
The court decided that the government could effect the provision of reproductive health care at no additional cost to women patients by other less restrictive means such as through an HHS program or through opt-in alternatives like those used under policies provided to church employees. This is effectively nonsense for two reasons: already it is clear that women’s reproductive health care provided directly by the government is a political football thanks to both the far-right and the far-left, and neither Hobby Lobby nor the other plaintiffs in the case mentioned or asked for the option to provide “opt-in” coverage for women employees under group plans (so likely have no intention to do so).
The sincerely held religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owners about the sanctity of life from conception appear to be variable depending upon profit and loss statement impact. For example, in this case, they can avoid costs and increase profits by having such a strong religious belief. However, that same strong religious belief seems to fade when it stands in the way of economic gain. Why do they supply their stores with cheap manufactures from China, where abortion is state policy? Could it be that it is a profitable decision, even if in conflict with their sanctity of life religious belief? Why do they invest pension funds in companies that develop, manufacture and delivery the precise women’s reproductive health care to which they so religiously object? Why do they sell their goods to women who may have used “morning after pills” and had abortions? It seems too convenient that when it costs them money, they object religiously, but when they can make money, they seem to be able to look past their religious convictions.
And if a Hobby Lobby owner really feels like his or her soul (and, I guess, the soul of the store down the block from you) is in danger from salvation, he or she can surely take some comfort that at an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God would certainly understand that offering FDA-approved reproductive health care in group policies through an ACA mandate is actually society’s decision acting through its government, not Hobby Lobby’s or its owners.
Hopefully the women of Ahwatukee will consider this carefully and decide that Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores suit their hobby, craft and home decoration shopping needs better than a company whose “religious,” or maybe profit-seeking, beliefs prevent it from providing women employees all reproductive health care approved by the FDA and mandated by the ACA.
• Ahwatukee resident Bryan L. Brinkley is secretary of Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society (AZ PASS). For more information, visit www.azpass.org.