The New York Times and many others are contributing to the false notion that the recent Supreme Court decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc allows businesses to ban birth control. In the spirit of truth, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby is about abortion-causing drugs and devices NOT contraception. To quote page two of the court’s official opinion, “The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply they will pay a very heavy price . . . If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.” You can read the high court’s opinion in full here.
Hobby Lobby did not say that providing no cost contraception to employees was against their religious convictions. They said providing abortion-causing drugs and devices violate them. Of the 20 FDA approved contraceptives they have no problem with 16 of them because they have not been proven to end the life of a child. It is important to note that the court recognized along with Health and Human Services that the four ‘contraceptives’ in question in fact can and do end the life of an embryo. The court states on page 32, “They [the business owners] therefore object on religious grounds to providing health insurance that covers methods of birth control that, as HHS acknowledges may result in the destruction of an embryo.” Since the owners of Hobby Lobby have a deeply held religious conviction that all human life is valuable and begins at conception they only had a problem with those drugs (e.g. Plan B, Ella) and devices (e.g. IUDs) that end a newly ‘conceived’ life.
Again, this case is not about businesses blocking birth control it is about ham handed bureaucracy forcing companies to violate their deeply held convictions just so a government can implement a political abortion agenda. For expert interpretations see responses by Princeton Law professor Robert George and the Director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society, Kim Colby.
A Brief Pause Before Uncorking the Champagne
For all the hoopla out there on the pro-life side touting this decision as a great victory we should be cautious. It should be noted that this decision is monumental if not only for the fact that this is the first time in the history of the abortion problem that it has been directly connected to individual religious liberty. That is, the moral cost of access to health insurance is to pay for everybody’s abortion. To that point there are several sobering factors to consider in this decision before we celebrate the ‘victory.’
- The first point to consider before champagne is the 5-4 decision. This was an issue of freedom of religion my friends. The question as to whether or not a person, acting as an individual or as a corporation, can live out their religious beliefs in the public square was narrowly upheld. That is to say it was refuted by four Supreme Court Justices! Remind me again why this country was founded? So let’s say one of the five majority justices retires and is replaced by a justice who sides with the minority…at that moment when one’s religion becomes a public matter at odds with official government policy it comes with criminal penalties (er…taxes).
- A second point that we ought to consider to temper our enthusiasm is the sad fact that holding as true a fact confirmed by empirical science could be considered a religious belief if it does not support the secular government position. ‘Human life begins at conception’ is now considered a religious belief simply because it aligns with the Christian worldview, embryology and human genetics notwithstanding. It would be understandable for the court to site as religious the belief that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore ought to enjoy protection under the law at every stage of development from conception to nature death, hence abortion is bad But that was not the point of religious belief the court considered. It happens to be terribly inconvenient to the abortion agenda that science sides with the pro-lifers on this point. And the court, complicit with that agenda per Roe vs Wade, already ruled that a pre-born child is not a person deserving of protection under the law. So now they are stuck with the Solomon-like act of slicing the baby called science between two would be religions, theirs called secularism or Christianity. So does this mean that embryologists who recognize the new organism with human DNA created at fertilization are religious zealots?
- The third point is that the abortion industry has gotten not only the government (including Health and Human Services [HHS] and the Supreme Court), but the media, and even many pro-life advocates to call certain types of abortion ‘contraception.’ The word ‘contraception’ is intended to define the use of methods that block conception which apparently in all other species but human takes place at fertilization. The abortion industry prefers to talk about when ‘pregnancy begins’ (they say it is at the time the embryo implants in the uterine wall) while the pro-life population prefers to talk about when the life of a separate and distinct human being starts (fertilization of the egg by the sperm). If contraception is supposed to mean the prevention of pregnancy and a pregnancy is not said to begin until the newly formed life is firmly implanted in the uterine lining (an arbitrary and convenience definition by the way) then drugs and devices that make it impossible for the embryo to implant are benignly called ‘contraceptives.’ If on the other hand life begins at fertilization, as embryology tells us, then that’s when pregnancy begins and those same drugs cannot be considered anything but abortifacients.
- A fourth cooling effect the decision should have on us is that it represents a ruling on a detail of an unethical, wrongheaded law (PPACA, aka Obamacare). This amounts to a sub-ruling serving only to further cement what ought to otherwise be repealed. Obamacare represents the takeover of the profession of medicine inserting itself in the place of the patient in the doctor/patient relationship. Now the government decides what ‘good health’ is for you, a member of a population that they manage, rather than you and your doctor. So, since the government has identified a population block called ‘women of child bearing age’ they have mandated that abortion-causing, carcinogenic drugs are good for all women. Individual health care no longer matters despite the rhetoric. It’s the population objective that counts as determined by non-elected rule-makers at the HHS. The same ones who wrote the contraceptive mandates at issue here. Simply Orwellian.