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How should Democrats in Congress respond to Hobby Lobby?

In response to the Hobby Lobby decision, democrats in Congress are planning to prioritize a bill that overrides the Supreme Court's expansion of rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  According to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), "The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act reinstates the ACA’s contraceptive coverage and protects the right of all Americans, men and women alike, to make decisions about their medical care in consultation with their doctor, not their boss."

With no Republican supporters as of yet and vigorous opposition from major religious entities, the bill has very little chance of passing. It is likely intended rather to bolster voter turnout for Senate Democrats in tough races (e.g., Colorado and Alaska). 

A different legislative response might have better chance of success. Instead of trying to overturn the specific decision, what if Congress worked together to make sure some of the "parade of horribles" potentially unleashed by Hobby Lobby can't happen? 

For example, it is probable that in the near future a corporate RFRA claim will be brought challenging required vaccines and other immunizations. (At the state level, an individual case has already happened: Phillips v. New York.) Since the Court's majority assured us that these kinds of claims are not going to win because of Hobby Lobby, Congress could hold them to that. With the highest rate of measles outbreak in decades (presumably thanks to anti-vaxxers), now would be an opportune time to clarify that corporations cannot use RFRA to reject laws of general applicability executed by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). 

One can also imagine a resource-extractive corporation bringing a RFRA claim challenging environmental regulations. Biblically-based principles of human dominion over the earth are certainly sincerely held by some companies that use mountaintop removal as a method. Now would be an opportune time to codify that corporations cannot use RFRA to reject laws of general applicability executed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Not every federal agency would be as easy to get majority votes on. Labor, Education, and others would probably not be worth the effort. And maybe it's naive to think that Republicans would support even a bill that says corporations can't bring a RFRA claim against the CDC. But it would at least be an attempt with a legislative chance of success at marking up the slippery slope.

About the Author

Michael Peppard is assistant professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.

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Any number of options for congress. Solve the problem and don't play games. Stupid lawsuits against the president, idiotic and meaningless legislation that is a waste of time, energy, and money. These people really deserve to be fired. Anyway, I digress but one thing Commonweal and the media can do is not to take their bait. Insist on serious, reasonable, policy postions. And attend rallies, meeting and community events (assuming these self-important politicians even hold them) and call them out on their shenanigans publicly and clearly. Articulate reasonable solutions and hammer away at them in an organized, consistent, and credible manner.

 One is to:

  • Establish fully funded, fedral, public health clinics which would provide flu and other vaccines, other preventative type medication, including contraception and emergency contraception. Included in this could be a clean needle exchange program.

This way you address the access issue. Schools could, if they wish, invite public health officials to come in an provide immunizations for children who so desire. That way, if there are anti-vacc people then that is fine, they have their choice as to whether accept this but the point is that access is made available.

But this is one component. Overall health promotion is also important.

Another thing is to vigrously promote health. Put warning labels on any product that contains more than "x" mg of refined sugar. Build and maintain clean, well lit, and safe, walking areas and encourage people to get out and move. Promote raw foods, greens, and vegetables. Promote and encourage phsyical education in schools and provide different types of activities for those who do not like group activity.( I say this as someone who does need to lose some weight!)

How can anyone pretend/presume to know what beliefs are "sincerely held" by anyone else?  How can a Supreme Court decision or a law passed by Congress be based on unprovable claims?

Since the Court's majority assured us that these kinds of claims are not going to win because of Hobby Lobby.

Actually, what they said is that Hobby Lobby doesn't mean that those kinds of claims will necessarily win.  That won't be resolved until someone brings such a claim to the Supreme Court.  

How can anyone pretend/presume to know what beliefs are "sincerely held" by anyone else?  How can a Supreme Court decision or a law passed by Congress be based on unprovable claims

We've done that for years when a board has to decide if someone is a conscientious objector who qualifies to be excused from military service. 

In the HHS mandate cases so far, the government has stipulated that it it accepts that the plaintiff's beliefs are "sincerely held" 

Vaccines prevent communicable diseases.  Pregnancy cannot be rationally compared to any disease, communicable or otherwise.

 

Conscientious objectors is one of the few exceptions where the government considers the sincerity of the belief. It was also an exception created by Congress. The courts usually accept the assertions about the person's religion move directly to substantial burdens, compelling interests, and least restrictive means.

Sincerely held beliefs:

  1. Polygamy.
  2. No interracial marriage.
  3. One black is equal to ¾ of a white.
  4. Women should not vote.
  5. Blacks should not vote.
  6. Separate but equal.
  7. Prohibition.
  8. No medical treatments for any illnesses or diseases.

Guess what?  Just because beliefs are sincerely held does not mean that the law cannot and has not ruled them inadmissible as a matter of law.

Bruce:

I hope you mean what I think you do, namely, that pregnancy is not a disease.  It is the a human life, a human being.  My God, have we now arrived at the point where practicing Catholics regard pregnancy as a disease?  And why are Catholics looking for ways to help Democrats circumvent the Supremes' decision?

Bruce and Bob Schwartz,

I've not heard anyone say that pregnancy and childbirth are diseases, but in our modern American society each of these are seen to require professional medical care.  It seems that contraception is "preventative healthcare" in that a person using it avoids a condition that is not without some, though minimal, risk to health and avoids expensive medical care (an $8,802 tab for childbirth and an additional $2,000 for a prenatal regimen, according to a Thomson Healthcare study for March of Dimes).

Of course none of these things have happened yet, they all seem unlikely to happen, and corporations would be shot down if they tried to claim a religous exemption in these cases, since the Court ruling called for religous exemptions to be considered on a case to case basis.

But of course that only matters if we want to consider how the Democratic party can best serve the public. If we want to think ofways for them toearn political points and pander to their base, then yes, knocking down some boogeymen of their own invention would certainly serve that goal admirably.

Gerald,

The two contraceptives Hobby Lobby took exception to are considered abortifacients because of their their effects within a woman's body.  There were about twelve other contraceptives that HL did not oppose.

The RFRA was a feel-good law that passed almost unanimously (97-3 in the Senate; without objection in the House). Such agreement within the Washington clown act is almost a certain indicator that something is amiss. The Act's first appearance on the public stage came when the Archdiocese of San Antonio wanted to remodel a landmark church in Boerne. The city objected, saying you can't mess with history. The archdiocese said we sure can under the RFRA. The Supreme Court, in a cheese-paring mood (Justice Kennedy wrote the decision) said the RFRA doesn't apply to the states, only to the federal government.

Hmm. I am not a lawyer, but does that mean Florida can make Hobby Lobby cover the two drugs here? (Not that it would.)

Anyhow, a new feel-good law -- or a feel-bad law designed to mobilize the Democrats' base -- is hardly the answer to having a feel-good law rattling around producing unanticipated results (A diocese can't enlarge a church, but closely held companies can make medical decisions). Congress has already banned cities from interfering with diocesesan building projects through a different -- and more Rube Golbergian -- approach. I am sure Congress can do something about Hobby Lobby with another Rube Goldbergian approach. I am also sure it will only make things worse.

Doing nothing in Congress almost guarantees the Supreme Court will be blizzarded with RFRA suits to slice the cheese even thinner. My son works for a company that has been public, then closely held, then public again and now semiprivately owned, although I am not sure it qualifies as closely held. Does that mean a company's religious rights come and go? Calling Justice Kennedy. That's just one unsettled e.g. Settling them all may keep the Supremes away from other mischief, so maybe it's best to let things work themselves out a little more.

Anyway, the problem is not with religious freedom but with the Supreme Court's discovery that Dr. Frankenstein succeeded in his efforts to create life when he had Igor hook up corporations.

 

The post presumes the existence of a problem without really stating what it is.  I confess that I don't see that there is a problem here that Democrats nor anyone else in Congress needs to address.  Could someone please provide a problem statement?

 

Jim, It's not a case of an absence of problems but of a plethora of problems. You've been reading these threads, so you can sort the problems out into various categories as well as I. My problem, as I just implied, is that if you prick a a corporation it does not bleed. If you tickle it it does not laugh. If you poison it it does not die. (And if it commits a crime, it does not go to prison.) But if it chooses a candidate, it can spend as much as it wishes to elect him, and if it develops religious scruples (and is small enough) it can make everyone else bow to them.

Others might say the problem is that it is scientifically wrong in its analysis of the two pills but its corporate "feelings" trump science. Others might say trhe problem is that Hobby Lobby is a false front for a political party that doesn't want Obama to succeed -- and, if so, that is because the party is racist or because it is a nearly wholly owned subsidiary of rhe Koch brothers or because it is deluded by Foxy reporting. Others might say that the problem is that employers should have no control over employees medical decisions. Others might say the problem is that Sam Alito's embarrassing opinion for the court makes no sense. The possibilities are endless.

But with so many possibilities, I don't think anyone could boil it down to a single statement. (Which is another reason for my previously expressed opinion that the Ds should let it be there where it is at.)

JP - you say:   "Could someone please provide a problem statement?"

CONGRESS

Okay, admit - love Tom's response.  Can't wait until a *corporation* is pregnant or is getting married?

Congress often responds to the Court's decisions through legislation. RFRA was itself a response to Smith. The democrats clearly want to respond to Hobby Lobby in some way. But while their proposal will satisfy "the base" and may be "good politics" (ugh), it almost certainly won't become law. 

So the problems presumed by the post are (1) the fact that legislators often perform political stunts instead of proposing potentially successful legislation, and (2) the fact that the Court's majority provided so little in the way of guiding principles for future decisions about RFRA claims.

The Court simply declared the slope not slippery without providing reasons why it isn't.  If I plug in "these immunizations are against my sincerely held religious beliefs" for "these contraceptives are abortifacient," then how does the current ruling decide against the anti-vaxxer? Since Kennedy granted compelling interest, it's only about least restrictive means. It seems like the result would be the same.

Some of the comments say that the scenarios I describe are unlikely to happen (even though Phillips v. New York already happened). I hope I'm wrong about lots of future RFRA claims by corporations against CDC, EPA, Labor, etc. But at least with respect to vaccines, I think it's inevitable. The growth and intensity of anti-vaxxers in the last few years is alarming. Why not have a bipartisan bill that simply eliminates the possibility of RFRA claims against immunizations required by the CDC?

There is imbedded within the US Constitution an infrequently used method for Congress to correct SCOTUS when it is determined that they have overstepped their bounds.  It is called jurisdiction stripping or court stripping.

No less than Framers Alexander Hamilton and Connecticut's Roger Sherman commented on powers assigned to the Congress in Article I and III to limit and confine the purview of the federal judiciary when the Congress determines that constitutional errors were made or that SCOTUS had gone too far.

By exercising these powers in concert, Congress may effectively eliminate any judicial review of certain federal legislative or executive actions and of certain state actions, or alternatively transfer the judicial review responsibility to state courts by "knocking [federal courts]...out of the game."

Bauman, Richard and Kahana, Tsvi. The Least Examined Branch: the Role of Legislatures in the Constitutional State, p. 442 (2006).

 

It seems that SCOTUS [at least the 5 Catholic Supremes] has crossed over into establishment of some religions - expressly forbidden in the 1st Amendment.  

In other words, Congress should cut-out the kvetching and just act.  But of course, the Republicans will never agree as long as the Kenyan socialist is president.

Since Kennedy granted compelling interest, it's only about least restrictive means. It seems like the result would be the same.

Hmm, so then HHS will have to create a vaccine "accomodation"?  Maybe the Obama administration has found a way to kill the American system of employer-subsidized benefits after all: death by a thousand religious objections and bureaucratic accommodations ...

 

 

Jim Jenkins,

They don't need to try a novel Constitutional strategy. The ruling was based on an act of Congress, so repealing or ammending that act would make the ruling irrelevant.

Jim Pauwels,

The Court could rule that creating novel accomodations for every objection is impractical. The ruling partly depended on the existence of a pre-existing accomodation.

Jim J

I did not know that the US had that provision in the constitution. It is indeed the nuclear option. It is similar to the Canadian "notwithstanding clause" which can nullify Supreme Court rulings. (Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). 

It is off topic but it would be interesting history. I thought FDR threatened to appoint more judges rather than invoke that provision when he was being threatened with overturn of the new deal by his political enemies. Is this really an actual possibility in the US system? At any rate, it has been invoked in Canada when Quebec resorted to it.

http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/bp194-e.htm

Quebec resorted to the notwithstanding clause after the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Ford and Devine cases on the language of commercial signs, ruled that an outright prohibition of the use of languages other than French was an unreasonable limitation on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter. The Quebec government thereupon introduced an amendment to the language law that would maintain unilingual French signs outside premises while permitting the use of bilingual signs inside. To ensure that the amendment would not become the object of another legal challenge, the amending legislation invoked the legislative override authority of section 33 and the similar provision in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This marked the first time that the override had been used in direct response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision, rather than in anticipation of litigation.

George D,

I believe so. The Constitution doesn't specify the number of justices on the Supreme Court, only that there is a supreme Court and which cases it has jurisdiction over.

Jim Jenkins, your suggestion is just as offensive as if someone criticized the dissenters in Hobby Lobby for being secular Jews trying to impose their own values, etc. 

As for the delusional Tom Harkin (see http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/07/02/senator-tom-harkin-pulls-a-... ), if he thinks that women should make healthcare decisions without their boss's involvement, maybe he would author a bill allowing Hobby Lobby to cancel health insurance without severe financial penalties? That would mean no more Hobby Lobby involvement in healthcare decisions.  

 

 

 

I would echo Tom Blackburn's concerns here about the extent to which religious employers might use the ruling to leverage exemptions, but it's hard for me to imagine a deluge of such cases. My guess is that most employers love birth control and abortion coverage because they reduce those pesky pregnancy leaves. Dealing with pregnancy and childcare leave is a pain in the neck. And who wants to forego vaccinations for employees who might have to stay home for two weeks to deal with a kid with measles?

I'm not sure I understand Jim Pauwel's assertion that the Obama administration has uncovered a way of eliminating employer-provided health care. It seems to me that employers themselves are the ones who want to get out of the health benefits biz. Why else would they be slashing full-time positions and hiring part-timers to whom they need not pay benefits?

Anyhoo, here's a Catholic commentator's very irreverent view of the ruling. Provided me with a much needed laugh as this wrangle continues: http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/xivy3m/hobby-lobby-case

Dealing with pregnancy and childcare leave is a pain in the neck.

I am also amazed that the Republican, the so called family values party, routinely opposes extension of unemployment benefits for women who leave the workforce to care for a child for a year. Personally, I think they should be allowed two years and their job held for them upon their return.  Granted EI is usually only 70% of your salary up to a certain cap but sometimes companies will offer "top-ups" to augment the salary. These compensations should be tax deductible. There are a raft of family support policies that the government can and should enact including enhancing the family and medical leave act.

Aside from important changes providing leave to military families, initially left without coverage under the act, Congress has made no significant improvements in expanding coverage to workplaces with fewer than 50 employees -- or in extending any protection to the growing millions of temporary and part-time workers who remain without any coverage.

http://www.alternet.org/surprise-surprise-twenty-years-family-and-medical-leave-act-helps-families-and-business

But I also don't think that you will see a deluge of cases like this again before the Supreme Court.

 

 

I am also amazed that the Republican, the so called family values party, routinely opposes extension of unemployment benefits for women who leave the workforce to care for a child for a year.

That's because "family values" is the most empty phrase in modern American politics.

Nobody can agree on what it is, though it tends to refer to a romanticized notion of the nuclear family unit of the 1950s--stay-at-home Mom, working Dad, and 2.5 children in a modest ranch in the burbs, girls who "got in trouble" punished by being kicked out of school and their babies put up for adoption, immoderate drinking and other family skeletons kept in the back of the closet, big chummy neighborhood picnics (that provided several weeks worth of backstabbing gossip afterwards), no people of color unless they provided comic relief safely on TV and not next door, everybody dressed up and in pews on Sunday.

Purveyors of this view of "family values" are in the same league with those folks who produced the movies with the little turtle who told us that if we got under our desks with our arms over our heads when we saw the atomic bomb flash it would all be fine.

If you are evaluating the public-health impact of contraception, the statement "pregnancy is not a disease" is fatuous:

1. Pregnancy poses health risks to women (http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-m...).

2. Unplanned pregnancies are particularly risky to the health of both women (Abma J et al., Fertility, family planning, and women's health: new data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, Vital and Health Statistics, 1997, Series 23, No. 19) and infants (Hummer RA,  Hack KA,  Raley RK. Retrospective reports of pregnancy wantedness and child well-being in the United States. J Fam Issues 2004, 25(3):404-428).

3. Anything that enables one to carry out a major life activity in a way that minimizes the risk to one's health, and prevents a condition that is particularly risky to the health of women and infants, counts as preventive health care.

I want to emphasize that my use the word <i>fatuous<i/> (Merriam-Webster: "complacently or inanely silly") is not just name-calling; it was carefully chosen to apply to the argument I'm referring to.  Denying the tremendous toll of disease and death caused by unintended pregnancies strikes me as complacent (at best); denying the logic of contraception's public-health utility is inane. 

 

 

Firing a gun, eating a cookie and parachuting from an airplane pose risks to women.   None of them are diseases.  Neither is pregnancy.  

 

Jean,

The cynic in me expects companies to develop religious objections to laws prohibiting discrimination against pregnant women. Pregnant women and gays are the ones who are most likely to be fired by religious institutions, and last week people were already expressing interest in using the Hobby Lobby precedent to overturn anti-discrimination laws.

Thanks, Kate - \

JP - you appear to not understand what she has posted in your effort to defend your simplistic statement - pregnancy is not a disease.  Nope, but it is so much more than you want to convey by that simplistic statement.

Firing a gun, eating a cookie and parachuting from an airplane pose risks to women.   None of them are diseases.  Neither is pregnancy. 

I agree that pregnancy is not a disease, but it is a medical condition, and one we don't deal with very successfully in the United States. Our maternal mortality rate is up to three times higher than most European industrialized nations (see WHO stats), and it seems to be on the rise. Trivializing its risks with eating cookies strikes me as unnecessarily dismissive of these risks at best. 

JP - you appear to not understand what she has posted in your effort to defend your simplistic statement 

To the contrary - I understand it perfectly, and have already made precisely the same point that Jean made in response: pregnancy is a medical condition that requires medical care.  And I managed to make that point without calling anyone inane, either casually or after considerable deliberation.

Kate Baldwin argues from a public-health point of view that pregnancy brings with it personal and public health risks.  She is right.  Obamacare's process for determining subsidized/free components of health insurance also approaches the question from a personal and public health point of view.  For items such as vaccinations against communicable diseases, that is surely the right approach.  But pregnancy is not primarily a public-health risk, any more than eating food is primarily a public health risk, even though some consequences of some food consumption, like consumption that results in morbid obesity, arguably is a public health risk.

If the only aspect of pregnancy is the aspect of personal and public health, then there is no reason for Obamacare not to pay completely for all abortions.  Nor is there any reason not to adhere to something like China's one child/one family policy; after all, the more pregnancies, the greater the personal and public health risks.  Think of the money we could save, and how much women's heatlh would improve.

The whole basis of Hobby Lobby's objection to subsidizing government-mandated abortifacients is that abortion is immoral.  That is not a public-health argument.  But pregnancy is about so much more than public health.  And objecting to doing something immoral, and continuing to object in the face of a government mandate, is not inane, but rather its opposite.

 

Ryan - While I can think of at least one or two reasons that a company would prefer not to employ a pregnant woman, I don't know of any religious objections to a woman being pregnant.  What are the religious objections to a woman being pregnant, that would result in a company terminating her employment?

Btw, I agree that it is conceivable that a for-profit company, under Hobby Lobby, might seek to discriminate against gay employees.  We have also discussed here a private company that discriminated against a corporate executive who opposes same sex marriage, even though he stipulated that his personal beliefs wouldn't influence the company's employment policies.  That is a real, concrete instance of discrimination against an employee for moral or religious beliefs, even though Hobby Lobby isn't applicable to his case.

 

I understand it perfectly, and have already made precisely the same point that Jean made in response: pregnancy is a medical condition that requires medical care.

Respectfully, Jim, you didn't make the same point I did. Eating a cookie is not a medical condition. Neither is jumping out of a plane or firing a gun. I'm willing to concede that for many--maybe even most--women, pregnancy is no more dangerous than those things you mentioned. But I think reasonable Catholics, including you, would concede that some women ought not to risk getting pregnant because of some pre-existing condition that would predictably harm their health or lives.

This is why some folks consider contraceptives as "preventive health care" (that's the term used in today's press release supporting the Murray bill from Obama's office as well as the bill backgrounder from Murray). I realize many Catholics reject any use of any contraceptives as "health care"; there's NFP or abstention.

Obama statement for those interested is at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/113/sa...

Murray's summary of the bill is here: http://www.murray.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/30554052-0f84-485a-babc...

 

 

 

Jim Pauwels,

I suppose some might have objections to pregnant women/women with children working. However, the cases I am thinking of are objections to unmarried women getting pregnant. It is a well known irony that many Catholic schools have an effective get an abortion or be fired policy.

But I think reasonable Catholics, including you, would concede that some women ought not to risk getting pregnant because of some pre-existing condition that would predictably harm their health or lives.

Yes, I agree.  But I don't concede that abortion is a remedy for women who find themselves in that plight (nor for any other women).  And of course, the Hobby Lobby case wasn't about contracepting to prevent pregnancy; it was about abortion.   And there is nothing about Obamacare's contraception mandate that targets at-risk women; it offers free contraception (and, some folks would add, abortifacients) to all women.  

 

And of course, theHobby Lobby case wasn't about contracepting to prevent pregnancy; it was about abortion.  

Yes, I understand why you believe Hobby Lobby's case was about abortion. In my view, maintaining the distinction between churches and religious non-profits trumps the company's request to be treated on an equal footing with them. We'll have to agree to disagree on this.

And there is nothing about Obamacare's contraception mandate that targets at-risk women; it offers free contraception (and, some folks would add, abortifacients) to all women.  

That's interesting. For both personal and humanitarian reasons (even religious convictions, if I can be granted to have any at this late date), I would like to see the Affordable Care Act retained in some form (since I think it's about the best we can hope for at this point in history). So: Would Obamacare garner more support generally if ALL employers were released from the mandate requiring them to cover abortions or any drugs that could not be proved to be abortifacients? I don't know what kind of political gyrations would have to go into this argument (though I never underestimate Congress's ability to gyrate ...). But maybe the argument would go something like this: The Hyde Amendment has long prevented federal government funds to be used for abortions, and, in the spirit of the amendment, which attempts to accommodate the consciences of a wide swath of Americans who abjure abortions in any or some cases, the federal government declines to mandate abortion coverage for any employer. 

Contraception is preventative medicine because pregnancy is a temporary disability. It's one that we often react to with joy and sometimes go to great lengths to experience, but it is a disability nonetheless. It is reasonable for even women who lives are not highly threatened by pregnancy to wish to control if and when it occurs.

Contraception is preventative medicine because pregnancy is a temporary disability. It's one that we often react to with joy and sometimes go to great lengths to experience, but it is a disability nonetheless.

I think having external genitalia is a disability, because it is much more prone to injury in accidents and requires special equipment if the afflicted wants to play contact sports. Or maybe I should just not make statements about things I know nothing about.

 

Legally, pregnancy is often treated as a disability. For example, California has Pregnancy Disability Leave that is distinct from the leave provided for new parents to bond with their child. Calling it a disability just acknowledges that it can reduce a woman's physical capabilities and require some time off to recover before one is back to normal. It shares similarities with breaking a leg and needing time off and work accomodations during recovery.

Hi, Jean, I agree that the Affordable Care Act addresses, at least to some extent, a genuine need.  (The need is genuine; the ACA's effectiveness in addressing it is still TBD).   There are quite a few problems with the ACA, but the political prospects for tweaking it seem to me to be hopeless.  Politically, I think the ACA won't be revisable until the GOP decides that no more hay can be made by bashing it on the campaign trail.  Everything I'm reading is that we're not at that point yet (here is one illustration).

I don't think there will be many companies that will want to opt out of providing drugs that may or may not act as abortifacients.  This opinion is colored by my own experience working for small companies: the guys I worked for could care less what was on the formulary list, as long as it didn't cost too much and the employees were happy.  (Not that happy employees were the be-all and end-all of their management/ownership philosophies, but disgruntled employees are a pain in the kiester and most business execs and owners aren't looking for more problems.)

Via the President's executive order (which he or a successor could rescind at any time), ACA already doesn't directly pay for abortions.  I'd definitely support a measure that would enshrine that order into the legislation.  But I'd think that Democrats (with the exception of the  Bart Stupak types, if there are any left in Congress) wouldn't support it.

Btw, something you mentioned in your comment suggested that you perceive that I think Hobby Lobby is right on the science question of whether or not those particular drugs really do act as abortifacients.  Of all the things I don't know much about, science would be at or near the top of the list.  But I would side with the scientists on questions of scientific fact.  If in fact those drugs aren't abortifacients, then I don't have an abortion objection to their use.  (I know that sounds almost like a tautology, but we're constantly told that there are people out there who hold to be true what science holds to be false and vice-versa.  I don't know such people, but I don't claim that my circle of acquaintances is broader than average.)  I don't think the Hobby Lobby case turned on the scientific merits of the owners' beliefs.  

This series of comments was triggered by someone's statement that it is inane to note that pregnancy isn't a disease.  Inasmuch as I had claimed that very thing in one of these recent threads, it struck a nerve :-).  But beyond my personal hypersensitivity, I really do think the topic of government-policy-treating-pregnancy-as-disease is an important one.  I don't want to digress more from the topic at hand, though (pardon me as I scroll back up to the top to figure out what the heck it is we're supposed to be talking about).

 

Jim, we're talking about what, if anything, should be the response of congressional Democrats to the Hobby Lobby ruling by SCOTUS, and my question is whether it would make sense for that response to be this: Let all employers off the hook re drugs that cannot yet be proven NOT to cause abortions through the kind of lame-o contortions that on congressional representatives can perform.  

If these drugs are some kind of sticking point for the majority who oppose Obamacare, I say let it go. Practically speaking, most people who purchase emergency pills are not going to wait the two days it takes to get an appointment to see their doctors, get a scrip, and have it filled because these things need to be taken ASAP to work best. Neither are people going to go to the ER, because the co-pay (or outright payment) for that visit will probably exceed the cost of the pill itself (about $50). Planned Parenthood offices may also give these things out even cheaper.

I suppose some women might ask the doctor to write a scrip for an emergency pill so she can carry one around in her purse just in case, but people who end up needing these things generally aren't the type who plan ahead. 

So fighting to keep these pills covered in health insurance policies may make some pro-choice Dems look like their fighting the good fight for a woman's right to control her own bodily functions when, in reality, she's probably going to purchase these OTC. 

The other issue is whether it's a good idea to extend the right to religious convictions to companies. No. The rights of business owners should not be conflated with or extended to the business entity they run (although the Amish guy who briefly owned the hardware store downtown here used to keep the lights off all the time because God didn't want him on Consumers Energy's grid; customers got sick of taking screwdrivers to the front window to see if they were flat-heads or phillips and he folded). 

I have no inside knowledge of these drugs and, as far as this blog is concerned, I have no opinion about them whatever except to note that I think women should understand that these things work because they are mega doses of female hormones that can make you pretty sick for a couple of days. The package inserts--you can read this stuff online--emphatically say they're not abortifacients. But as others here have asked, how do we know? And Catholics would have to recognize them as contraceptives and a sin in any case.

 

@ Wasting Time:  You should've learned in high school debating that it is dangerous to set-up straw man arguments - especially if you're going to make disparaging ethnic comments about Jews.

You WT and Catholic hierarchs have to decide if you can abide by the limited rights embedded in ALL the provisions of the US Constitution?

Despite what the hierarchs would have us believe, the 1st Amendment religious liberty guarantees are limited by the equal protection and due process requirements of the 14th Amendment.  Look it up.  They may be "severe financial penalties" to you, but to the vast majority of us Americans that's what justice looks like.

SCOTUS has spoken for now.  But, something tells me that these issues are not settled conclusively - nothing has been decided definitively, if it had we wouldn't be having this debate.  We'll be contesting these constitutional principles for a long time to come.  This is the way democracy works!  Very slowly, very slowly ... 

With some luck, the composition on SCOTUS could change dramatically in the next few years that could put a dent in the stranglehold the 5 Catholic Supremes have on our constitutional liberties. 

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