The US Supreme Court held yesterday that closely-held for-profit corporations may be exempt (thanks to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment) from providing health insurance plans which cover some forms of birth control because of the religious beliefs of the corporations’ owners. (See how complex that was? Not a “ban on birth control”.)
Obviously, social media is wild with excitement on both ends, and I wanted to add my two or three or four cents.
First of all, let’s talk about birth control vs. contraception. Even within the opinion itself, there is some sloppy word-switching. Please get it right. They are very different.
“Birth control” includes any device or practice that prevents birth, including elective abortion. “Contraception,” by definition (but not necessarily in common usage), prevents conception (not implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall); and “conception” refers to the joining of the sperm and ovum (not implantation).” via The Atlantic.
Secondly, here’s what’s definitely not happening: Hobby Lobby is not failing to provide contraceptive care to it’s employees. Nope. Not even a little bit. In fact, the company is providing health care plans which offer coverage of sixteen of the twenty approved types of birth control. They are just not into paying for some things that may cause an abortion. And I’m really okay with that.
All this exemption affects, according to USA Today are the plan-B pill, ella pill, and IUDs (which all, according to their drug information, prevent implantation of a / any fertilized egg into the uterine wall).
As a sub-point to this, the Supreme Court is definitely not restricting access to or banning some forms of birth control. In fact, part of the court’s reasoning in their analysis of whether the mandate was the least restrictive means of accomplishing the state’s compelling interest, was that there are other methods of allowing every woman to have access to these medications and procedures, and yet for some reason (not given) this system provided by the Department of Health and Human Services has not been expanded to include employees at for-profit corporations. So – Boom!
Thirdly, this case is not about abortions, it’s not about sex, it’s not about your bedroom, and it’s not about rape. It is about freedom: freedom to spend your money where you want to, and freedom to allow your religious convictions to inform those decisions. And I don’t think that anyone – liberal, conservative, or anywhere else – can argue than making informed, conscientious decisions about where we spend our money is a bad thing. After all, isn’t that what we’re counting on when we encourage people to buy local, go green, purchase products made in the USA, or spend with companies that support charities?
Justice Alito specifically stated in the majority opinion that this decision is not meant to pass judgment on the morality of the use of certain types of birth control:
“The Hahns and Greens believe that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS regulations is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage. This belief implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another.”
The Justice went on to say this Court has not been and is not interested in answering that complex philosophical question. See? No judgment.
The decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is decidedly neutral on the subject of whether these forms of birth control are morally good or bad, and whether they cause abortions. (Based on the buzz around this case, it’s clear that people have different definitions of abortion. It was the plaintiff’s position that taking a medication that you know will or has a substantial likelihood of preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, and therefore halting its development is abortive.)
All the judges wanted to affirm was that your religious convictions are protected, and that if you don’t want to pay for someone else to have what you consider to be an abortion, then you don’t have to (if you are a closely-held corporation). It was non-judgmental, it did not restrict access to necessary healthcare, and the company even went so far as to say that they would rather stay out of the whole issue, but the Affordable Care Act has forced them into it, against their will.
Finally, may I just express the irony in the fact that suddenly the slippery slope argument has validity. Justice Ginsberg warns in her dissent that this case is the start of a slippery slope, and that the logic the court used in it’s finding could allow other corporations to object to other coverage down the road. But when we said the same thing about the DOMA cases last year, everyone said we were crazy bigots. Suddenly, it’s a valid argument!
That’s all I have to say on this case, which undoubtedly will be the case of the summer to talk about. (Boy did I look like an idiot, though, when my boss brought up the union case decided the same day, and I knew nothing about it.)