Hobby Lobby’s Divisive SCOTUS WinBy: Mike Tuttle - July 1, 2014
The Supreme Court case that featured Hobby Lobby and their protest against Obamacare wrapped up with a Hobby Lobby win yesterday. Within minutes your Facebook and Twitter feeds probably blew up with statements of indignation or triumph, depending on where your friends came down on the issue.
Unfortunately, much of what you see tossed around out there is probably just as confusing as it ever was. Bear with me as we try to make sense out of what happened and what it could mean in the future.
One of the statements that is getting tossed around is that Hobby Lobby wanted to be able to refuse to pay for all contraceptives for its female employees. This is not the case, though the ruling may leave that possibility open.
There are 20 forms of contraceptive that are covered under the Affordable Care Act. Of these 20, Hobby Lobby has issue with only four that they considered “abortifacients.” These four treatments are different from the other 16 due to the fact that they may prevent an already fertilized egg (a “conception”) from implanting and growing. These four include Plan B, Ella, as well as copper and hormonal IUDs.
Hobby Lobby’s contention was that, since they believe that life begins at conception, these four treatments cause de facto abortions. The medical community at large does not consider these treatments to be abortions, since their definition of viability must include the implant stage.
The Supreme Court’s decision came down to the fact that the owners of Hobby Lobby and other businesses believe that life begins at a different point than most doctors do. Therefore, this became a religious issue.
Opponents of this position say that this decision is a slippery slope that could cause many other issues of a religious nature, even some that have not yet been thought of, to become major headaches. These may not even be in the healthcare realm.
One example that has been proffered is: What if a business owned by a Jehovah’s Witness, who believes that use of blood products are forbidden in the Bible, says that they should not be forced to cover life-saving transfusions or hemophiliac treatments, even for non-Witness employees?
This was an example used by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent from the 5-4 decision. She went on to ask:
“Would the exemption…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[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”
The Court’s decision is designed to be narrow and limited only to “closely-held corporations” — which comprise most of the businesses in the United States. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow acknowledged this in her commentary on the ruling.
“The justices in the majority, they went out of their way to say that your religious objections can only get you out of this one part of this one law,” she said. “They said specifically that only contraception laws are subject to religious beliefs. Other laws aren’t.”
Even so, many on both sides of the issue say that the genie is out of the bottle and there will be further effects.
“Justice Ginsburg is right — this is sweeping,” said Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University. “People should not get lost in the reference to ‘closely held corporations.’ These types of businesses are huge in this country and most of the businesses people relate with in their daily lives. We’re still working out the details of how far that goes. … That’s what’s going to happen here. It is a significant game changer.”
On the other side of the aisle, Lori Windham, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said, “This case is about the freedoms of all Americans — women and men — and it’s something that all Americans should celebrate today.”
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