“It bears noting that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers on the minimum wage.” —GINSBURG, dissenting.
There’s no court like the highest court in the land to toy with our emotions. Not since the SCOTUS’s evisceration of DOMA in Windsor have the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr transformed into a feeding frenzy of ad-hoc Tweeter-turned-legal analysts as when the Court issued its ruling on a company’s “religious freedom” (I didn’t realize that corporations had souls that needed saving) pitted against a woman’s right to paid contraceptives. However, while Windsor sparked tears of joy in many (a good friend sat quietly at his desk that morning and wept over a copy of the opinion), Hobby Lobby inspires an altogether different breed of bodily discharge (e.g., terror-induced sweat or bile come immediately to mind).
Today, a friend—a good friend, mind you—posted a link to an article in the National Review, which attempts to call bullshit on the “Left’s fantasy world.” Touting that the nefarious Hobby Lobby “actually lavishes contraception coverage for its employees” (did anyone else picture Mr. Hobby Lobby presenting female employees with velvet jewelry boxes containing birth control pills? Or was that just me?), the author concludes that “Liberals are living in a cartoon of their own making.”
Indeed, Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan pays for up to 16 different kinds of contraceptives, including condoms, diaphragms (which, according to Seinfeld, are obsolete), birth control pills, and female sterilization surgeries. What Hobby Lobby was making such a stink about were contraceptives that conservatives often associate with abortion—the Morning After Pill or IUDs (copper or with progestin).
So, upon first blush, seems legit. What’s all the fuss about? Well, before we start congratulating Mr. Hobby Lobby for showering his female employees with dozens of different kinds of (basically obsolete/notoriously ineffective/painfully invasive) contraceptives, let’s consider the following FIVE FACTS:
FACT No. 1: TOMORROW, HOBBY LOBBY COULD DECIDE TO PAY FOR ZERO CONTRACEPTIVES. Just because Hobby Lobby’s plan, today, provides for the payment of 16 different contraceptives doesn’t mean that this will always be the case. The Court’s decision has left the door wide open for Hobby Lobby to whittle that number right down to a big fat ZERO, claiming “religious freedom.” So, while it’s 100% true that Hobby Lobby actually pays for some forms of contraceptives, who the EFF CARES? When has what people are doing EVER been as frightening as what people can be doing? Moreover, keep in mind, when the SCOTUS talks, the Nation listens. More specifically, opportunistic/skilled attorneys and lobbyists will find ways to take the Court’s ruling today and stretch/reshape it beyond recognition, so that other companies (who aren’t as generous as Mr. Hobby Lobby) can get away with far worse. That is how a system of stare decisis works. As Justice Ginsburg noted in her TOTES GONE VIRAL dissent:
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.
FACT No. 2: UH….YEAH….COMPANIES GENERALLY DO NOT WORSHIP THINGS. So, like, I guess this comes as a surprise to some, but, by definition, a company is a “THING” not a “PERSON.” “Religion,” in turn, is defined as “the belief in a god or in a group of gods.” How does a THING “believe” in anything, much less a god? Can the apples sitting in my fridge believe in an afterlife? Does the toilet paper in my bathroom pray before going to bed at night? Or, more close to home, does the law firm I work at believe that it not only has a soul but that this soul is destined for hellfire and damnation if it pays for IUDs? These questions are so painfully absurd, yet to many, they must not be rhetorical. Do you see what the SCOTUS did here? They pitted the so-called “religious beliefs” of a THING against the autonomous rights of ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS—and ruled in favor of the THING.
FACT No. 3: CLOSELY HELD CORPORATIONS ARE STILL—WAIT FOR IT—CORPORATIONS. Some have pointed to the fact that Hobby Lobby was what is referred to a “closely held corporation”—a company of which more than 50% of its stock is owned by less than five people. One Facebooker/Self-Professed Legal Expert commented that “closely held corporations” are basically “one and the same” as the individuals who own them. How absolutely adorbs! Try and tell that to Mr. Hobby Lobby when someone goes after not just the company’s assets, but the owners themselves. The distinction between corporation and person goes back to like ADAM AND EVE times precisely because the owners of corporations (like Hobby Lobby) sought a different kind of freedom—freedom from personal liability. So, the idea that a closely held corporation should somehow be imputed with the personality or religious beliefs of its owners is either a “fantasy world” OR this decision could have some far reaching (and disastrous) consequences for small-time and big-time business owners, alike, that have absolutely NOTHING to do with birth control and everything to do with economic viability.
FACT No. 4: IUDS PREVENT UNWANTED PREGNANCIES MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN OTHER FORMS OF BIRTH CONTROL. As Justice Ginsburg stated,
Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.
Interestingly enough, according to one study, when contraception was made free, “almost three-quarters of teens and adult women chose intrauterine devices like Mirena or ParaGard, which last five to 10 years, over alternatives like the pill, contraceptive patch, cervical ring, or Depo-Provera.” (Slate, “Why have teen pregnancy rates dropped?”, July 31, 2012.) But more significantly, the study found that
“the risk of contraceptive failure was 22 times higher with the pill than with IUDs in adult women, and double that for teens.” —Id.
Effective and accessible birth control leads to less abortions. That is a cold hard fact. What Hobby Lobby has done, however, is given the Mr. Hobby Lobby’s of the world carte blanche to render inaccessible to millions of women what is arguably the most effective form of birth control. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what that’ll do to abortion stats.
FACT No. 5: IUDS ARE EXPENSIVE. Among the other strokes of brilliance offered up by social media are those who cry “but no one’s saying you can’t go ahead and BUY your own darn IUD! Just pay for it yourself!” It seems that most people (including her colleagues) glazed over the part where Justice Ginsburg pointed out “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers on the minimum wage.” This means that unless companies decide to basically ignore Hobby Lobby, the IUD—one of the most, if not THE MOST, effective form of contraception—will simply no longer be an option for many American women. Not only that, what happens when your employer makes the deliberate decision to fund one type of contraception over another? What message is that employer sending to its employees? “Oh, YOU want an IUD?? You must be one of those amoral baby-killer types!”
IN SUM, to suggest that the fact that Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan still pays for numerous types of birth control should somehow allay the concerns of “foaming” Leftists misses the point with such colossal disregard for the obvious, it would be laughable if not for the fact that millions of women will now be pressed into choosing between a month’s paycheck or crappy birth control. I realize that I sometimes live in a myopic world, given my profession and that my perspective might be biased as a woman who has used an IUD for many years. I am lucky, though. Even were my employer to take a leaf out of the Hobby Lobby Bible, I can still afford to use the contraceptive of my choice. But the fact that this is my reality today does not, in any way, blind me to what the reality of tomorrow could look like.
And, the view scares the living fuck out of me.