A federal judge Monday rejected Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.’s request to block part of the federal health care overhaul that requires the arts and craft supply company to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after and week-after birth control pills.
In a 28-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton denied a request by Hobby Lobby to prevent the government from enforcing portions of the health care law mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives the company’s Christian owners consider objectionable.
The Oklahoma City-based company and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government in September, claiming the mandate violates the owners’ religious beliefs. The owners contend the morning-after and week-after birth control pills are tantamount to abortion because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s womb. They also object to providing coverage for certain kinds of intrauterine devices.
On Friday, Judge Carol Jackson, a George H.W. Bush appointee to a federal court in Missouri, rejected a Catholic business owner’s challenge to the Obama Administration’s rules requiring employer health plans to cover birth control. Like the many copycat lawsuits asserting similar legal claims, the plaintiffs in this suit argued that the birth control rules substantially burden their faith by requiring them to pay for employee health benefits which might then in turn be used to pay for birth control. As Judge Jackson’s opinions explains, however, this argument proves too much:
The burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [an employer’s health] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiffs’ religion. … [Federal religious freedom law] is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others. [It] does not protect against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own… .
[T]he health care plan will offend plaintiffs’ religious beliefs only if an  employee (or covered family member) makes an independent decision to use the plan to cover counseling related to or the purchase of contraceptives. Already, [plaintiffs] pay salaries to their employees—money the employees may use to purchase contraceptives or to contribute to a religious organization. By comparison, the contribution to a health care plan has no more than a de minimus impact on the plaintiff’s religious beliefs than paying salaries and other benefits to employees.
A key insight in this opinion is that salaries and health insurance can be used to buy birth control, so if religious employers really object to enabling their employees to buy birth control, they would have to not pay them money in addition to denying them comprehensive health insurance. An employer cannot assert a religious objection to how their employees choose to use their own benefits or their own money, because religious freedom is not a license to “force one’s religious practices upon others.”
Notably, Jackson’s view was, at least until recently, not particularly controversial. Eight years ago, the California Supreme Court rejected a very similar challenge to a state law protecting access to birth control. Five of the court’s six Republican justices voted to uphold the law. The sole justice who voted to strike down the law, future federal judge Janice Rogers Brown, once compared liberalism to “slavery” and Social Security to a “socialist revolution.”
You see them everywhere on the streets surrounding the Democratic National Convention: legions of women sporting bright pink “Yes, We Plan” T-shirts, featuring an image of a pack of birth control pills.
WHERE DO I GET ONE
I am a first generation American and first generation college student. Because of financial aid I am able to stay in school and therefor be on my university’s health plan. While exploring my options for birth control I was asked by my doctor to take a pregnancy test for safe measure before I started on any anti contraceptives.
This pregnancy test revealed that I had a high amount of protein in my urine which is a red flag for kidney problems. Many tests later it is revealed that my kidneys are in fact not healthy and the tissue is not in the shape it should be, luckily we have caught it early before it became kidney disease.
I am twenty years old. Twenty. If it weren’t for birth control I would not know about this condition and I would be well on my way to an early death.
If I hadn’t gone to my the health center I would have gone to a planned parenthood clinic and we would have caught it there. Either way exploring my options for women’s health saved my life.
In fact, of the more than 60 clinics that have closed across Texas, only 12 were run by Planned Parenthood. Dozens of other clinics unconnected to Planned Parenthood nonetheless lost state funds and have closed, leaving low-income women in large areas of the state without access to contraception.
It gets worse. The federally qualified health centers—which lawmakers said could provide family planning services to low-income women and make up for the cuts—have themselves experienced a funding crunch and are struggling to absorb demand. The result is that costs have shifted to patients, and exceptionally poor women now make hard choices about paying for their well-woman care. Some will find the cash, but an alarming number won’t. Indeed, the bipartisan Legislative Budget Board estimated that last year’s cuts would lead to more than 250,000 women losing services and 20,000 additional births covered by Medicaid. When The Texas Observer asked providers what they thought about the cuts, several mentioned the same phrase. They said in hoping to punish Planned Parenthood, politicians had gone too far, with devastating consequences for women’s health. Lawmakers, they said, had thrown the “baby out with the bath water.” In this story, the first in an occasional series, we examine what happened to the family planning providers who have fallen from favor.
The reduced family planning budget has destabilized every provider in Texas, whether they were small, rural organizations or large community programs in metropolitan areas. They all depend on public funding, and the large cut to their budgets forced them to reduce services, fire staff and, in some cases, close shop completely. Many of the providers that haven’t closed teeter precariously on funds from another endangered source—the Women’s Health Program. This Medicaid-funded program pays for many of the same services as the state family planning program that lawmakers cut last session. The Women’s Health Program’s future in Texas is in doubt as well. A federal court is expected to decide this fall if Texas can legally exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program. That ruling could determine if clinics continue to receive WHP funds or if Texas can scuttle the program entirely. Texas officials have said they will end the program rather than include Planned Parenthood. If the Women’s Health Program in Texas does end, more clinics may close.
Thank you, President Obama!
My birth control is now FREE!!!!!!!!!!
Someone’s paying. And I am glad they are, because it makes perfect sense for everyone to have access to their medication. Medical decisions are never financial decisions and we shouldn’t try to shoehorn them into ideological marketplaces.
Anyway, this is how society is supposed to work. Yay.
"Someone’s paying." Yeah, the purchaser, when paying the health insurance premium. They don’t come without co-pays if you don’t have health insurance. Another reason Planned Parenthood remains a critically important service in our communities.
The ACLU describes why it’s not a violation of your freedom of religion to enforce laws that limit discrimination- and demonstrates that it’s well established with legal precedent.
While today’s controversy centers around access to contraception and eradicating gender discrimination, the claim that the business makes in today’s case – that religious objections should trump laws designed to promote equality – is not unique. A few examples:• In 1966, three African-American customers brought a suit against Piggie Park restaurants, and their owner, Maurice Bessinger, for refusal to serve them. Bessinger argued that enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits that type of discrimination, violated his religious freedom “since his religious beliefs compel[ed] him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.”
• In 1976, Roanoke Valley Christian Schools added a “head of household” supplement to their teachers’ salaries – which according to their beliefs meant married men, and not women. When sued under the Equal Pay Act, Roanoke Valley claimed a right to an exemption. According to the church pastor affiliated with the school, “[w]hen we turned to the Scriptures to determine head of household, by scriptural basis, we found that the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the house, head of the wife, head of the family.”• In the 1980’s, Bob Jones University, a religiously-affiliated school in South Carolina, wanted an exemption from a rule denying tax-exempt status to schools that practice racial discrimination. The “sponsors of the University genuinely believe[d] that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage,” and it was school policy that students engaged in interracial relationships, or advocacy thereof, would be expelled.
Fortunately, in all of these cases, the court rejected the claim that religious beliefs can trump anti-discrimination laws. Even in the 1960’s, the court recognized that although a business owner has a constitutional right to express his religious beliefs, he does not have an absolute right to exercise such beliefs “in utter disregard” of the rights of others. The court in today’s case should follow history and what courts have long recognized: that religion is not a license to discriminate.
Wheaton College, a private Christian school in Illinois, wishes to be exempt from the Obama administration’s newly-enacted birth control insurance mandate, like other religious-run schools and hospitals. But there’s one problem: Wheaton doesn’t qualify for the exemption, despite the fact that they’re adamantly against emergency contraception and birth control and all the unbridled harlotry that proliferates in the presence of the two evil medicines. The reason they don’t qualify? Turns out that before all this Obamacare business, the school was already covering emergency contraception. I believe the technical word for what just happened is “Derp.”
in response to Representative Mike Kelly’s (R-Pa.) comment linking the birth control mandate to the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11 terrorist attacks
In a surprising departure from conservative orthodoxy, Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) broke with Romney’s legal adviser yesterday, stating that the Constitution does indeed protect a right to birth control.
A look behind the scenes of Texas’s decision last year to cut funding for family planning and wage “an all-out war on Planned Parenthood”—and what that may mean for the future of women’s health care:
It was a given that reasonable people could differ over abortion, but most lawmakers believed that funding birth control programs was just good policy; not only did it reduce the number of abortions, but it reduced the burden on the state to care for more children.
That changed dramatically after 2010, when Republicans won 25 seats in the House, giving them a supermajority of 101 to 49 and total control over the law-making process. (The male-female split is 118 men to 32 women.) As the Eighty-second Legislature began, a freshman class of right-wing legislators arrived in Austin, determined to cut government spending—a.k.a. ‘waste’—and push a deeply conservative social agenda. At the same time, Governor Perry was preparing to launch his presidential bid, burnishing his résumé for a national conservative audience. It wasn’t a good time to be a Democrat, but it wasn’t a great time to be a moderate Republican either. Conservative organizations turned out to be as skilled at social media as your average sixteen-year-old, using Twitter and Facebook to chronicle and broadcast every move of the supposed RINOs. A climate of fear descended on the Capitol. ‘Most people in the House think we should allow poor women to have Pap smears and prenatal care and contraception,’ an aide to a top House Republican told me. ‘But they are worried about primary opponents.’
The result, in Texas and beyond, was a full-scale assault on the existing system of women’s health care, with a bull’s-eye on the back of Planned Parenthood, the major provider of both abortions and family planning in Texas and the country. As Representative Wayne Christian told the Texas Tribune, in May 2011, ‘Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything. That’s what family planning is supposed to be about.’
What we’re reading.
Eric Fehrnstrom: Mitt Romney is pro-life. He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election.
Eric Fehrnstrom, Mitt Romney’s senior campaign adviser, claiming issues like contraception coverage and abortion rights, were “shiny objects” being used to distract voters.
Not a social issues election?
You can’t fire up the culture wars as an entire party and then have the nominee’s spokesman trot out to the Sunday morning shows and say, “Lulz, j/k!” when you’re losing said war.
Women’s rights and reproductive rights are “shiny objects” and nothing more?
Remember this in November. Remember, if you give a damn about women’s rights, access to contraception, and reproductive rights in general, the Romney campaign thinks you’re being distracted by shiny objects.
Oh, and access to contraception and reproductive health services is very much tied to the economy thankyouverymuch.
Women, especially young childless undecided women voters, are talking about jobs, not abortion rights, right? What women really care about is not contraception, not access to family planning resources, not social issues like gay marriage, abstinence-only sex “ed” or Mitt Romney’s 50 year old bullying. Nope – it’s the economy. Women, “like everyone else,”– that would the norm – men, just want to be able to go to work, earn a fair wage and support their families. These “social” things are a “distraction” leading Americans to avert their gaze from what’s really important: the economy. Polls are clear: jobs and the economy are their number one concerns.
This oft-repeated juxtaposition, superficial and irresponsible, between The Economy and Social Issues (especially, in polls, “jobs” and “contraception”) is like a political media Greek chorus. People believe it, especially women who are disinclined to think about themselves as discriminated against by virtue of their sex. Young women answer these questions and pollsters ask them the way they do based on the assumption that women, armed with education and “girl power,” have equal access to newly created jobs and will be paid fairly for their work. Those are false assumptions that women, especially young childless ones, need to consider before they vote, because this year’s elections, both state and presidential, will affect their ability to do both for years to come.
We’re engaged in a mass delusion that misleadingly pits The Economy against what are at their core, Reproductive Rights. Don’t be fooled when considering who to vote for – women can’t participate equally in the first until they have the second. The very phrasing of the questions and the reporting of the answers hide the complex and interdependent relationship between the two. Contraception, reproductive rights, gay marriage (defined as it is by conservatives as a threat to male/female hierarchies) – all have critical implications for women’s economic well-being and for the economy at large.
Insistence on splitting these two concerns is particularly useful to Republicans, because it allows them toblame women’s economic woes on their “choices,” a specific irony. If a woman gets paid less or doesn’t have a “seat at the table” it’s because she chose a lower paying job, or because she chose to have children and works part-time, or she chose to not complete her education. If women make “bad choices” it’s their own fault, their decisions and they have to pay the consequences. Which gets us to the second half of this equation. Simultaneously, for the “less important” Social Issues, the word “choice” is completely anathema to Republican legislators and presidential hopefuls. Girls and women cannot possibly be trusted with “choices” when it comes to their own bodies, sex ed, birth control, health care, sexuality, domestic violence and marriage.
Most importantly, however, in terms of the economy, is that what all of these secondary-in-importance social issues boil down to is that women especially cannot be allowed to “choose” for themselves when to become mothers – arguably the single most important contributing factor to their, and our economies, long-term well-being.
What single factor arguably has the greatest impact on a woman’s work life? In other words, what enables women to participate in the economy and become productive workers and engines of economic growth and expansion?
That would be motherhood.
So, even single, childless, undecided women who may one day get pregnant, should consider what happens to a woman when she gives birth:
- She is 44% less likely to be hired
- She makes 11% less than her non-mother female counterpart (who is already just making 78cents to the male dollar)
- She is less likely to go to school or complete her education.
- She works part-time with more frequency, so that she can provide child care for which she is uncompensated and can derive no benefits as child care is invisible labor.
- She is less able to work overtime.
- She is unable to get maternal health care coverage as part of a basic insurance policy. Already discriminated against by gender rating in insurance prices, she is now doubly financially harmed by the fact of her parenthood.
- She is more likely to have to limit herself to lower paying job sectors where she thinks she will have more “flexibility” even though this has been proven not to be the case.
- She is more likely to be impoverished and become state dependent.
And, what is motherhood? In it’s simplest terms, it is reproduction.
Control of reproduction is an economic issue. This isn’t an academic abstraction, it is a practical reality for any human endowed with a uterus.
This is why instead of The Economy and Social Issues being unrelated as people keep suggesting, they are integrally related. The very nexus of The Economy and Social Issues then, from a policy perspective, is the question “Do you believe women should work, for (fair) pay and outside of the home?” Republicans do not. That’s why their dedication to controlling female sex and reproduction is an economic policy choice – it affects women’s abilities to pursue education, get hired, be paid, stay in the workforce.
If you believe yes women should be able to work and be paid fairly outside of the home, then you do everything possible to create family friendly work structures, fair pay regulations, health care access, planned parenting provisions, that enable women to do just that. If no, then you don’t. You do the opposite. You create a disabling “social issue” legislative scaffold on which to build a “it’s your own fault” Temple to Patriarchy. This is precisely what the Republic party is doing. If you are an undecided woman voter you should pause to consider the impact of these intersections on your own life and the lives of other, often far less privileged, women.
As it is now, even for a woman who has access to birth control, health care, safe and legal abortion, becoming a mother in this country, planned or unplanned, is the single worst economic decision a woman can make. She is still cobbled by inadequate health care, higher gender-rated insurance premiums, discriminatory pay, poor return on her educational investment, greater responsibility for child care and an inability to save effectively for security in her old age.
Republicans have shown repeatedly and without remorse that they want to keep women vulnerable, dependent and at home:
- Lilly Ledbetter? What’s that? “Money is more important for men.” I finally support it, but (wink, wink) my surrogates will make sure it never happens. Fair Pay in Wisconsin? Don’t want to force employers to prove they are paying women fairly. Definitely don’t want to “clog up the legal system” unless, of course, it’s to send black boys and men to jail.
- Domestic Violence? Let’s make sure the Abuser Lobby is happy, given the mail order bride business and more, and ensure that women most vulnerable to violent abuse are isolated and left even more at the mercy of mostly men who will rape and beat them without recourse to the law.
- Reproductive Freedom? Let’s pursue husbandry-informed blunt force trauma legislation ensuring that women’s bodies and reproduction stay in the control of men. Eliminating Planned Parenthood, making it hard to find birth control and abortion services, mandating transvaginal ultrasounds that women themselves have to pay for, requiring waiting periods that require expensive travel – all of these things impede women’s freedom and ability to compete fairly in the job market.
- Health Care: What, you mean the stuff that keeps people healthy and able to go to work? Hell, no. We’ll not only fight against affordable health care (the opposite of which is unaffordable health care) but we will also stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even including monies dedicated to non-abortion services like…family planning – often the only services that poor women have access to. Title IX? The only federal program devoted to family planning, you almost cannot make this up it’s so ridiculous: Romney will eliminate it entirely, to save money for The Economy.
- And yes, even Mitt Romney’s 50 year old bullying of a gay boy. Why? Because the exact same attitudes that informed that incident inform his support of abstinence-only education, gendered societal roles, fair pay provisions, reproductive freedom – namely, there are rules, boxes which people are supposed to fit into – and when they don’t conform to his world view they should be punished and forced to. The roots of his high-school bullying escapades and his “Social Issue” policies both reside in an inability to empathize with people who don’t look like and sound like him. It’s why he saw nothing wrong in explaining that Ann Romney was responsible for translating females. Empathizing with women is just not a possibility if you’re a man.
All of these issues profoundly affect women’s ABILITY TO ENGAGE FULLY AND EQUALLY IN THE ECONOMY WITHOUT PENALIZATION. If Republicans were serious about their commitment to women’s unimpeded equality in the workplace, then they would not insist that “social” policies are unrelated to “the economy” and they would not be pursuing broad legislation that affirmatively harms women’s ability to participate in the economy on multiple levels. Basic control over her own body, that would be reproductive freedom and health care that is affordable, non-discriminatorily priced, and relevant to her body and not men’s, affects whether a woman can seek and complete her education. The type of job she can get. How many hours she can work. If she can afford to start a business. Whether or not she can work full time or has to work part time. Whether she can afford childcare and health care, if she works. Whether she can safely leave an abusive spouse without fear for her children and seek work to support herself.
That’s why Social Issues, like contraception, are ABOUT The Economy not separate from it.
All of this, yes.