The Internet has been abuzz with news of craft store Hobby Lobby in light of its favorable Supreme Court ruling. In case you haven’t heard, the Court decided Hobby Lobby, a public company founded and owned by a family of conservative Christians, did not have to provide certain types of birth control specified by the Affordable Care Act to its employees. The owners of Hobby Lobby claimed such forms of birth control violated their religious beliefs, which they felt were protected by the First Amendment.
People are upset about this for a number of reasons. First, the ruling sets a dangerous precedent in that it allows a for-profit corporation to hold religious convictions. In light of this precedent, corporations could conceivably bypass many laws by building a case that they violated religious beliefs. One frightening example relates to vaccinations — in a time where religious anti-vaccers are becoming more common, could this mean some corporations could opt out of paying for vaccines in their employees’ health plans?
In addition, many feel the Court’s ruling is sexist. By limiting birth control options used by women, is the Court setting back decades of progress in women’s reproductive rights? It’s important to note that although Hobby Lobby is against certain forms of female birth control it has no problem paying for vasectomies or drugs like Viagra.
However, the most frightening part of the Court’s decision is perhaps that it ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby while other evidence suggests its religious conviction against birth control was not so tightly held. This could mean any company could file a similar suit simply to save money, even without a true conviction that the law was wrong. Here are further details on why Hobby Lobby’s victory just doesn’t make sense when it’s examined more closely.
Following the Court’s decision political blog Mother Jones revealed an ironic twist — Hobby Lobby owners had been investing in the same products they were fighting to keep out of their employees’ health care plans. As of December 2012, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) retirement plan held over $73 million in investments with companies that produce Interuterine Devices (IUD)s, emergency contraceptives and abortion drugs. This amounts to 75% of the company’s retirement fund.
In the brief they filed with the Court, Hobby Lobby owners were specifically protesting birth control like Plan B, Ella and IUDs, as it felt these methods were similar to having an abortion. However, Hobby Lobby invested in companies like Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pfizer, Bayer, AstraZeneca and Forest Laboratories, all of which produce the forms of birth control they were protesting and/or abortion-inducing drugs. Hobby Lobby also invested in Humana and Aetna, health insurance companies with policies that cover abortion and emergency contraceptives.
You would be right to point out that these companies do a lot of more than produce birth control. However, it seems a bit strange that a company willing to take a case to the Supreme Court wouldn’t do a background check on its investments. In our day and age, it’s easy to find out whether or not a pharmaceutical company produces abortion drugs and/or birth control.
Many corporations with religious convictions also make a point not to invest in such companies. Some financial planners even specialize in that in faith-based investing, which involves screening a potential investor for objectionable practices. If Hobby Lobby’s owners truly had qualms about birth control, why wouldn’t they have hired such a planner? To be safe they also could have avoided pharmaceuticals altogether and invested in something in tech industry, like a Ring Power website designer.
It Doesn’t Hold Up to Logic
It’s important to note Hobby Lobby still has to provide 16 forms of birth control to its employees. It is only exempt from Plan B, an emergency contraceptive known as Ella, hormonal and copper IUDs. The owners alleged these methods prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, which is more or less the same as abortion according to their beliefs. However, scientific evidence does not support the idea that these methods prevent implantation, which makes the whole case seem somewhat arbitrary.
According to scientific studies published in 1985 and in 2010, IUDs seem to work by preventing sperm from reaching the egg — not by eliminating an already fertilized. Ella and Plan B work in a similar manner. Both are emergency contraceptives that deliver a massive dose of hormones, preventing ovulation and thickening mucus in the cervix. It is unlikely that either of these pills would last long enough to prevent implantation.
The fact that Hobby Lobby’s claim about these methods of birth control doesn’t exactly hold up is a little frightening. In light of this ruling, can anyone just go into a courtroom lacking scientific evidence about what medication really does and obtain an exemption from law? Will religious exemptions become more common for corporations in the future? Furthermore, could these religious convictions be made up out of convenience or to save money?
Image by m01229