Monday, June 30, 2014

My Take on the Hobby Lobby Decision

Just in case you haven't heard, the Supreme Court ruled that "closely held, for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption to the Obamacare requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives." (Article)

If you just want my opinion on the issue:  It's bad.  I don't like it.  It is a dangerous precedent.  While it seems consistent with our laws and the defense of religious freedom, I think that it undermines individual freedoms.  And lastly, I do not approve of any laws or decisions that reduce our rights.

Reproductive rights are often cast as a women's issue, presumably because most of the restrictions that get bandied about are on women.  But as far as I am concerned, a threat to reproductive rights is a threat to all of our rights.  A woman's right to birth-control or an abortion does not interfere with my individual liberties unless I am being forced to conduct the abortion or administer the birth-control (assuming I was morally or religiously opposed to those things).  A woman having an abortion would only possibly conflict with my reproductive rights if it was my child that was going to be aborted, but that is a terrifically complicated issue, and my default would be to err on the side of freedom and support the right to an abortion (of course I probably wouldn't stay in a relationship with someone who would abort my child, so in the end it would be a clear indication that I should not have attempted to reproduce with that person).  This applies to other rights as well.  My right to keep and bear arms does not interfere with your rights unless I try to harm you with them.  A gay couple's right to marry does not interfere with my rights unless... I can't even come up with a situation where that could affect my rights.

We should all seek to avoid impinging on the rights of others in the exercise of our liberties.  But that does not mean that we should curtail the rights of others because there is a possibility that they may impinge on our rights.

My goal is always to try to see as many sides to an issue as I can.  I try to look for rational arguments that both agree and disagree with my position.  On this reproductive rights issues, as with gun rights issues, I am firmly on the pro-rights side.  Actually I try to be on the pro-rights side of pretty much any issue.  That includes religious rights.  And that is where this case gets sticky, because this is a case of two sets of rights smashing into each other.

In order for me to get to this case, I'm going to need to go on a digression.

When I say "rights" I mean rights that are outlined in our constitution, amendments, or supported by court cases.  Our constitution does not give you the right to determine when, where, or with whom you can have or not have children.  But the courts have upheld the right of people to decide whether or not they want to have children.  As far as I'm concerned if you want to strip Americans of a right that has been granted you had better have a mass of overwhelming, rational, incontrovertible evidence that the destruction of that right is necessary to the survival and function of our society.

I have yet to hear arguments against abortion or birth control that meet those requirements.

That does not mean that there are no valid arguments against abortion.

I am firmly of the opinion that the primary valid argument against abortion comes down to an issue of worldview.  If you believe that life begins at conception, then abortion is murder.  Plain and simple.  One can try to confuse the issue by pointing out that many people who oppose abortion, support capital punishment; but the conflict between those two ideas is irrelevant to the issue of abortion.  Just because someone holding a particular position is a hypocrite does not invalidate that position.

It seems to me that our culture has come to make a big deal about hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is treated as a major sin.  I think that is absurd.  Hypocrisy is a minor sin.  We cannot seek to be better than we are without engaging in hypocrisy. (Here is a piece on Hobby Lobby's hypocrisy)

I am firmly of the belief that one's moral and ethical standards should be aspirational.  If you are able to routinely live up to your own moral and ethical standards then you need to raise those standards.

We should, all of us, be trying to be better than we are.  But if we cannot be hypocrites then we cannot hold goals loftier than what we are.  Pointing out another's moral failures or intellectual inconsistency does not make one a better person.  That does not mean that moral failures and intellectual inconsistency should not be pointed out, but it does mean that just because someone is inconsistent or wrong about something it does not invalidate all of their other positions automatically.

Which brings us back to the Hobby Lobby.  The argument in favor of the Hobby Lobby's position is that giving female employees insurance coverage that would include birth control methods contrary to the ownership's religious beliefs would be a violation of religious rights.  I do not think this argument is quite as spurious as it seems.  If one ascribes to a worldview that sees abortion and plan B as murder (believe me, I am very aware that the conflation of these two things is bullshit, but they are conflated in this debate), then providing material support for those acts would make one an accomplice in murder.  It seems hard to argue that people should be forced to help kill other people against their will.

The comparison that anti-abortion activists often draw is the Holocaust.  Just as WWII era German citizens had a moral obligation to oppose the murder of millions of Jews, modern era US citizens have a moral obligation to oppose the murder of millions of babies.  To this my response is to point out the prime corollary to Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, if you bring up Hitler the conversation is over and you've lost.  Nazi analogies are not meant to be illustrative or edifying, they are meant to equate one's opponents to Nazis, and thereby invalidate anything that the opponent claims.  It means that one does not view one's own position as defensible on its own merits, and instead seeks to discredit other positions through fallacious association.

But while the Holocaust analogy might be bullshit, it does illustrate the depth of feeling on the issue.  And yet I still think that the Hobby Lobby, and other closely held or publicly held companies, should be forced to behave in a fashion that their leaders view as murderous.  To start to explain why, I'm going to quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

"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."

There's the rub.  This decision creates too wide an opening for religious groups to force their beliefs and values on individuals that do not hold those values or beliefs.  However, I do not think that privately owned companies, religious groups, or individuals should be forced to violate their religious beliefs.  But Hobby Lobby is not privately owned, it is closely held, which means that it can be publicly traded, but is not normally publicly traded.  If a company is going to seek to reap the benefits of entering the public realm for private gain then it should be required to adhere to public mores.

If we seek to err on the side of freedom in this case, then it seems to me that the Supreme Court made a bad decision here.


  1. Thank you for explaining this. I was pretty relieved to see that my understanding of it wasn't too far off and that my reaction was simular to Justice Ginsburg. I really like how you explain things, like Godwin's rule. And I finally understand what a centrist is! Lol Thank you for writing this!

  2. You are welcome.

    This is definitely a case where I would not argue with anyone just sticking with "my reproductive rights are my rights and a corporation should not have say over my rights," but I try to get at the "why" I think a particular position is the right decision.

    In my opinion this is a simple enough call that it doesn't really need all of the thought I put into this in order to figure out what is right. It's pretty obvious. There are other situations that are not as black and white, but this one is black and white to my mind. I mostly just wanted to explain why I thought it was black and white.

  3. I'm going to disagree with you here. In your introduction you give the argument that the supreme courts ruling reduces our rights or our reproductive rights (a woman's right to birth control or abortion). This is not so. The woman still has the right to purchase birth control or get an abortion, she just cannot demand that her employers pay for it. (Although Hobby Lobby DOES pay for Birth Control, they just do not want to provide the morning after pill.) Had it gone the other way, the owners of Hobby Lobby would have lost their rights to act as their moral conscience dictates, they would have lost religious freedoms. The employee in this scenario also has the right to not work for Hobby Lobby and to find a job elsewhere that will cover the cost of the morning after pill or pay for her abortion.

    1. Lynn, I stand by my assertion that this decision in this case in particular is an infringement on reproductive rights. The decision allows a publicly tradeable (though closely held) corporation to decide which types of birth control they will provide access to via a third party health insurance corporation that they are mandated by law to provide access to. If there was a universally available public option for health insurance then it would be true that this was not an infringement.

      I do sympathize with the argument that businesses should not be required to fund treatment options that they disagree with. Actually, I agree with that statement. But right now the law of the land is that businesses have to provide health care, and birth control options--including Plan B--are health care items.

      I do not agree with the Affordable Care Act, but not because it goes to far, rather because it does not go nearly far enough. The ACA (AKA, Obamacare) is an ambivalent halfway measure that manages to run roughshod over businesses and individual freedoms. I personally have benefited by the ACA, even though there are problems with it, as have millions of Americans, but it creates very messy interactions between businesses and individuals.

      In the article you linked to on facebook the author misrepresents some things. Number one is the idea that the decision only affects Hobby Lobby and its employees, and it implies that Hobby Lobby is in the same vein as a private business. Neither of those things are true. The decision is not limited to the specific reproductive options that Hobby Lobby chooses now or in the future to allow employees to have through their federally mandated provision of healthcare, the decision means that closely held corporations can decide not to offer birth control options they object to.

      In the P.S. to his blog entry Matt Walsh briefly discusses other employers that have declined to cover contraception. Those other employers were not closely held corporations. Matt Walsh repeatedly associates Hobby Lobby with entrepreneurs and business owners, but Hobby Lobby is not a privately held corporation. Hobby Lobby chose to enter the (semi)public realm, and should be held to the same standards as other public realm corporations.

      While I do not agree with Matt Walsh on many points, I do agree that private business owners should not be forced to pay for health benefits they are morally opposed to. My wife and I disagree on this point. But that is not what the decision today deals with.

    2. Jon, I see your points and I thank you for them. When you've broken it down this way, I see that we agree on a lot of things here. You are right that this does not only effect Hobby Lobby and it's employees and I see now that the argument has escalated beyond this particular case, but to the what-if's and what-could-be's for future businesses. To that I cannot say, because it hasn't happened yet and I am no psychic. But in this case, specifically, about Hobby Lobby who already pays for birth control, I am still glad that the supreme court is not forcing them to provide The Morning After Pill to their employees. I see what you're saying about it being a closely held corporation, and the precedents it will set for other corporations, but I am still thinking of the precedents it will set for privately owned businesses as well. Perhaps the two are completely different in terms of how the law effects them, I will have to research that more. Again Jon, thank you for your points, you have made a lot of sense to me and helped me to understand a different view.

  4. • I should have guessed. His article "The poor child is confused, not 'transgendered" only shows me one thing - this man is a religious fanatic without any kind of LGBT education at all. And I quote - "A tragedy. A tragedy of nonsense. Horrible, abusive, pathetic, sad, bizarre, tragic nonsense. This child didn’t ‘choose’ her gender." This man has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to being transgender. And so, with that being said, to discuss his article. How nice that he starts out his blog with saying American liberalism is plunging deeper into dark and hellish insanity. Why would i want to read an article about women's rights from a man who I know from the get go doesn't believe I should have them. But, to keep going. How nice, he is in a " satisfied mood", so he won't be too critical - not like his opening paragraph.

  5. Going on - "‘Closely held’ companies can opt out of Obama’s contraception mandate, if they have strong religious objections." Key words to sum up my whole point. It doesn't matter if they do or don't cover one part of birth control. Companies can opt of the contraception mandate. How nice, they point out Hobby lobby covers BC. "This ruling is a limited victory for freedom and sanity, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The justices could have issued a sweeping decision fortifying every person’s right to run their lives and their companies according to the dictates of their conscience, rather than the dictates of an authoritarian government bureaucracy." Why, I keep asking myself, am i reading right wing drivel clearly meant to be inflammatory and derogatory to anyone that isn't a Conservative Christian. But, I keep going. Next sentence - "Orwellian speech infringements." Keep going. "Progressives have reacted to the ruling in their typically reasonable way, calling for Hobby Lobby to be burned to the ground, marking the first time in recorded history that anyone has made terroristic threats against an arts and crafts chain. Jo-Ann Fabrics better start beefing up its security."

  6. Nice - more sarcasm. There wasn't enough of it in this article thus far. (See, I can do sarcasm too. But that's not my style. I prefer honest and direct.) "The Huffington Post screeched in its headline that the Supreme Court has ‘gone after women,’ while legions of other liberals threw hysterical temper tantrums over Hobby Lobby’s ‘intrusion into a woman’s uterus.’ Mother Jones decided that the Supremes hadn’t only waged a war against women, but against science as well." I wish I could underline all of the sarcastic and degrading statements he is making. Might not be any text left, though. Next, he quotes the only woman on the Supreme Court - “[The Hobby Lobby decision will] deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.” – Justice Ginsberg’s dissent." Next he points out again that Hobby Lobby covers birth control. Oh good, I didn't get it the first time he said it. (More sarcasm. Might wanna quit that.) He goes on to say this-" B) Whether any employer covers birth control or not, none are trying to stop women from accessing it. The issue here is whether a private company should be forced to pay for birth control, not whether it should be allowed to sneak into your house at night and check to make sure you don’t have a bottle of Yaz in your medicine cabinet." Oh good, they aren't stopping me from accessing it. But wait - insurance coverage is access. Oh wait, that's right. Not now. Not if I work at a company that I am free to leave at any time that I want to because they won't cover My Birth Control.

  7. See, what he's doing here is making about me and my choice and about the morning after pill and abortion. But the Supreme Court decision didn't say "no more morning after pill coverage." It said - "‘Closely held’ companies can opt out of Obama’s contraception mandate, if they have strong religious objections." To be clear - "opt of contraception mandate." The company isn't private. It's semi private and after reading about it, I say that loosely. This isn't a mom and pop store. They have hundreds of stores. And that last bit of his quote, about the Yaz, more sarcasm. "If your boss is in your bedroom, call the police. Or stop inviting him in. When you ask him to pay for what you do in the bedroom, you are inviting him in. Want him out? Good. Then stop making your birth control into a national headline. Deal with it yourself, privately." How about this - if i don't want my boss in the bathroom, the one I guess I invited him into, maybe I shouldn't get coverage for my irregular periods. And really, stop inviting him in? See, I only made a little past this point in the article for that very statement. "Don't want your boss in your bedroom, stop inviting him in." That makes it sound like I am screwing my boss. My boss, by the way, who I better not get pregnant by because now that I am having sex out of wedlock without birth control, guess what, they are probably going to opt of that coverage too.

  8. Sex out of wedlock, even if it's sexual harassment and forced or coerced, well, that's against our Religious beliefs. So, single moms - no pregnancy coverage for you! Should have kept a quarter between your knees! And if he forced you, you wanted it because of that darn uniform you were wearing! And if you got pregnant, it wasn't really rape because you uterus should have shut that crap down if it was really in fact rape. But no. Tough luck. I digress - moving on. Yay, talk of Jews! Moving on. "should he ever find himself employed by one of the five or six Orthodox Jews in America," Nice! How would he know? "If you won’t give it to me, then I cannot have it. This is what a child might accurately say to his parents. However your employer is not your parent, and you are not a child." That's damn right! He is not my parent. And I am not a child. I don't need someone else to tell me what I do and do not need for my own body besides my doctor. Bottom line. They aren't doctors, he isn't either, and none of them live my life. And they don't live any other poor, single mom's life either. And the whole argument - go buy it. Well, as I've already stated I've tried that. I'm not stupid. I am very intelligent and the most resourceful person I know. Chances are pretty damn good - if there's a way to do something, I will find it.

  9. $187./ month for my birth control. How dare I not afford that?! And guess what, I may not be as smart as some people on here, but I do know this - I am not the only person who cannot afford birth control out of pocket. I am not. If it wasn't a big deal, why would anyone make a big deal out of it? They wouldn't. But it is. That's why "Liberals" are up in arms and pissed as hell - because women all over the country need help with this. And this decision doesn't just affect their "morning after" regret. It affects Birth Control period. Now that we are standing on this slippery slope, what's next? No pap smears? No breast reductions? No pregnancy coverage for out-of-wedlock women? Companies the country over are thinking of other coverages they are now "religiously opposed to" for the sake of their bottom line. Because again, this isn't about 1 company. It is about dozens, maybe more that are "Closely held". This man may argue about Hobby lobby, but this goes deeper and farther than that. And you know what, to say that my kids might say "if you don't give it to em, then I won't have it" is a crock! If my kids ask me for something, I ask them how they are going to earn it? Any woman that works (WORKS) for a company, she is not only earning a wage, she is also earning benefits, even if it is limited to crappy Obamacare coverage. They aren't graciously handing these women birth control or anything else. She is working for it! Good God, I need a break! I will finish the other half of the article later.

  10. P.S. Sorry it is all broken up. It wouldn't let me post it any other way.

    1. Natasha/Meagan- In response to your Facebook posts, I did not say that "I agree with everything that Matt Walsh has ever said in the history of the world ever", so to bring his views on LGBT into a debate about Hobby Lobby Health Care confuses me. Most of your post is pointing out all of Matt Walsh's sarcasm and how you don't like it, (which is fine, I'm not here to make you like Matt Walsh's personality) so I will skip over addressing that part as well.

      As to the "what's next? No pap smears? No breast reductions? No pregnancy coverage for out-of-wedlock women?" part of your argument, please see above my response to Jon.

      Thank you for your insight Natasha, again, I feel that we must agree to disagree. Which is fine. Different people with different views makes the world a lovely and interesting place to be. I wish you the best of luck in your life and with your sweet children and have nothing but love for you.

    2. Meagan, I agree that a lot of what Matt Walsh says is offensive and designed to be so. He is not alone. Unfortunately most of the political activism I see is designed only to offend opponents and make supporters feel smart.

      I don't know how your wall looks, but my Facebook wall is covered in offensive political memes from both Conservatives and Liberals. But all the people posting those things are friends of mine. And I think that is important to remember. I don't want to silence or drown out any of my friends, even when I think they are very wrong about something.

      In the case of the Matt Walsh blog I feel like Lynn was very clear that the blog entry expressed her feelings on this topic well. You don't have to agree with her. But when you talk to her about your disagreement it is important to talk to her about your disagreement with her, not about Matt Walsh on all the various topics that you disagree with him about or the Conservative Agenda.

  11. Lastly to Aurora's Facebook comment (Lastly because I cannot give any more time to this issue as I have little rascals running around that demand my attention! :) )

    You are right, condoms are not 100% effective. But neither is the birth control pill.

    In response to your question about penile implants being covered by insurance: I can see that it could be covered because it corrects a dysfunction. As I said previously about Viagra:

    "It is to help a part of the body fulfill it's purpose and function, birth control is to prevent a part of the body from fulfilling its purpose and function. So to compare the two just doesn't make sense."

    However, if the penile implant was for the sole purpose of aesthetic improvement, then no, I do not think insurance should cover that.

  12. I have been thinking on this all night and I have to admit, I am really struggling with the hypocrisy issue regarding Hobby Lobby. I fully agree that in order to become more than what we are we need to be able to be hypocritical to a degree but I think there is a significant difference between aspirational hypocrisy and manipulative hypocrisy. Me lecturing my kids on the dangers of smoking when I go through almost a pack a day is a minor aspirational hypocrisy, I wish for my kids to be smarter than I am. But seeking legal protection against spending money on a product or service due to religious beliefs but at the same time being willing profit off of those same products and services, to me, does undermine a great portion of their argument. In a case such as this I could almost support the decision provided there was established a burden of proof upon the company ownership in regards to their religious consistency. I'm not suggesting a 100% perfect track record or anything but at least show they make a sincere attempt to consistently project though same religious beliefs throughout all aspects of their business. Without the requirement of such proof what prevents any company from looking to save a few bucks from claiming a religious exemption regardless of whether such "deeply held religious beliefs" actually exists?

  13. My favorite thing about this ruling is that corporations now have more personal rights and are to be treated more so like an individual. With this current progression of rights, we should be able to put them in prison for murder soon. Yay!