Based on reactions from the political left to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., one would think that American women have been stripped of fundamental constitutional protections. Gone are the franchise, free speech, and the right to serve on a jury. The Washington Post’s blog averred that the “Hobby Lobby case is an attack on women.” Handwringers at the White House lamented that the decision “jeopardizes the health of women employed by these companies.” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, opined that this “ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.”
So in what nefarious way did Hobby Lobby and other Christian-owned businesses conspire to discriminate against women and impair their health? The business owners simply objected to paying for health-insurance coverage for four birth-control methods that prevent a fertilized egg from developing by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus. Because they believe that life begins at conception, the Christian business owners felt that they would be aiding and abetting the murder of unborn children if they funded these methods. The owners are not against all forms of contraception and voiced no objection to the 16 other FDA-approved birth-control methods that health-insurance plans must provide under ObamaCare. In essence, these Christian villains balked at being forced to provide what they viewed as abortifacients.
The business owners’ claims were primarily based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The statute prohibits government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” To prevail against a claim under RFRA, the government must establish that the law or regulation furthers a compelling government interest and is the least-restrictive means of furthering that interest.
Before delving into the meat of RFRA, the Court had to address whether for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby were covered under the statute. The government argued that an artificial legal entity is not a person and thus is incapable of exercising religion. RFRA does not define “person,” but general federal statutory law defines the word person to include “corporations, companies, associations, firms” and other artificial entities. The clear statutory language settled the matter for the majority, and it declined to read into the statute a requirement that the corporate entity be a nonprofit company.
The Court next assumed that “the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is compelling within the meaning of RFRA” and proceeded to inquire whether the contraception mandate was the least restrictive means for furthering the government’s interest.
The Court had little trouble in finding that the mandate was not the least restrictive means. “The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.” The Court pointed out that the government already had programs established for nonprofit organizations with religious objections to contraception, and that the claims of Hobby Lobby employees desiring the “morning-after pill” could be easily channeled into these existing programs.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, made clear why the left is so vehemently opposed to Christian business owners’ position. Citing the abortion-rights case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Ginsburg claimed that the “ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” In other words, any act or decision that does not make it easier for women to terminate a pregnancy must be opposed.
Of course, women working for the businesses and desiring the morning-after pill can still obtain it. Right now they have to pay for the abortifacient with their own money (apparently unheard of in America) and most likely will soon be able to get the pill for free once the federal government channels them into established programs. The employees still have access, without cost to themselves, to the 16 other FDA-approved birth-control methods that the Christian business owners did not object to. Hobby Lobby still picks up the bill for condoms, spermicide, the Pill, contraception rings, and a host of other birth-control options.
To Ginsburg and her ilk, abortion is the fundamental right of modern America. A decision that does not further the agenda of making abortion easy and costless (at least financially) must be vilified. This explains the sky-is-falling attitude of progressives to the modest result in the Hobby Lobby case. No one’s health is jeopardized, and birth control has not been outlawed. But someone did have the temerity to voice his religious view that life begins at conception. This heresy to the abortion agenda must be silenced.
Leave a Reply