The Hobby Lobby Slippery Slope

March 25, 2014

Today the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby challenge to the Obama Administration’s contraception policy. The challenge centers on whether for-profit corporations may object to laws they don’t like on religious grounds. Below is a guide for what you need to know about the case and how to talk about it.

TOPLINES

Religious freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans. We are all free to practice the faith that we choose and no one gets to impose their faith on anyone else. 
This case is not about religious freedom. The law does not make churches and religious organizations cover contraception.
This is about for-profit corporations trying to use religion as an excuse to disobey laws they don’t like. Corporations are not people, they cannot pray or have faith, and they should not be able to avoid our laws by pretending they can. 
If the Supreme Court lets this private corporation use religion as an excuse to deny contraception coverage, we are on a slippery slope to more corporate abuse of religion:
  • A corporation controlled by a Jehovah’s Witness could deny health coverage for blood transfusions;
  • A corporation controlled by a pacifist could discriminate against veterans and reservists;
  • A corporation controlled by a religious owner could claim the same ability as churches, mosques, and synagogues to hire only leaders of a certain faith; or
  • A corporation controlled by someone who objects to homosexuality could deny services to gay people, just like the law that was rejected in Arizona.
Birth control is medication and 99% of sexually active women have used it for one reason or another. Viagra and penis pumps are prescribed by doctors too, but nobody second guesses men’s sexual health issues.
No matter what a woman’s employer believes, her family planning decisions are not her boss’s business.
Our religious freedoms are too important to allow corporations to use them as just another tool to ignore our laws.

KEY: Connect with your audience | Make your case | Show how your opponents differ


ATTACKS & RESPONSES

ATTACK: “Isn’t this the same as the Little Sisters of the Poor case?”

RESPONSE:

  • The cases are different: the Little Sisters are a religious non-profit organization, and the law does not require that they provide birth control coverage. In that case, the organization’s lawyers are objecting to filling out a form certifying that they are exercising their exemption.
  • The Hobby Lobby case involves for-profit corporations, not religious organizations. The business owners are arguing that their personal religious objections to contraception should mean that they can opt-out of the requirement that for-profit corporations provide health plans with contraception coverage.
ATTACK: “The plaintiffs don’t object to contraception coverage, they object to abortifacients.”

RESPONSE:

  • This is not about abortion. A recent study found that free contraception could reduce abortion rates by 75%, so if Hobby Lobby’s management wanted to reduce abortion, they would embrace this coverage.
  • The plaintiffs are perpetuating the medical myth that birth control methods like Plan B, ella, and IUDs are “abortifacients.” They are not. Plan B and ella prevent fertilization. And the medical field defines pregnancy from the point of implantation.
  • Additional background: Hobby Lobby argues that a woman is pregnant as soon as an egg is fertilized, so they consider anything that prevents implantation an abortifacient. In fact, the morning after pill (or Plan B) and ella do not inhibit implantation, but instead block fertilization. Copper IUDs couple prevent (though do not disrupt) implantation, but only when used as emergency contraception, and once again, the medical field clearly defines pregnancy from the point of implantation.
ATTACK: “Isn’t this just about Obamacare’s big government telling common, God-fearing people how to run their businesses?”

RESPONSE:

  • This case is being handled by the Becket Fund, which is a legal organization whose donors include the Koch brothers.
  • Another eyebrow raising fact: for some time before the Affordable Care Act was passed, Hobby Lobby’s health insurance covered the types of contraception to which they are now objecting. It was not until the company “re-examined its insurance policy” in the wake of the HHS contraception mandate that the company realized they had been providing coverage for these medications already.
ATTACK: “What’s the big deal? Can’t employees just pay out of pocket?”

RESPONSE:

  • For low-wage workers, an additional $30 each month is a big deal. That’s part of the reason that a recent study found that making contraception free reduced unplanned pregnancies so much that the abortion rate dropped 75%. 
  • Long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods like IUDs, which are by far the most effective, cost north of $600. Imagine you and your husband have decided your family is just the right size, and you and your doctor decide that an IUD is the best option for preventing future pregnancies. Then imagine getting hit with a bill for $900 for the device and office visits because your employer doesn’t believe in contraception. 
  • Right now, our system is generally one where employers provide health insurance as part of their compensation packages, but that doesn’t mean that our employers get to play doctor. Contraception shouldn’t be treated any differently than Viagra or any other prescription.

WORTH KNOWING

  • majority of Americans support requiring employers to provide contraception coverage—even religious non-profits, which are currently exempted. One poll found that 61% of Americans supported the contraception coverage mandate for religiously-affiliated employers.
  • 7 in 10 Americans think insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of contraception.
  • More than 99% of sexually-active women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used at least one form of artificial birth control. Contraception use among Catholics and Protestants is about 90%.
  • More than half of young adult women have struggled to afford birth control at some point.