Rally Round the IUD

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Obama Administration, Women's Issues

One of the several weird things about the Hobby Lobby decision is that it appears to leave open the possibility that just about any employer can withhold mandated coverage from employees for any “religious” belief, whether that belief makes factual sense or not. For example, Dahlia Lithwick writes,

Having read the opinion only briefly I am not at all clear on why Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, is so certain that he can hold the line here to closely held corporations and that the parade of “me too” litigants promised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, won’t show up on the court steps in the coming months and years. For one thing we are—going forward—no longer allowed to argue the science. “It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” writes Alito. Also, going forward, we are not allowed to argue the depth of religious conviction. Once those are off the table in this case, they are either off the table forever, or the court will decide in the future what’s off and what’s on.

The science part refers to the fact that Hobby Lobby objected to emergency contraception and IUDs, in the belief that they cause abortions, and medical science says they don’t. Justice Alito apparently said that it doesn’t matter what the science says, it’s the belief itself that is sacred and unquestionable. But neither are we allowed to question the sincerity of that belief. This seems to me to open many industrial-size cans of big, nasty worms..

I don’t think most employers are going to suddenly drop contraception coverage, if only because it probably wouldn’t reduce their insurance costs much, if at all. It wouldn’t be worth the bad publicity. But the world is full of whackjobs who own companies and employ people.

Justice Alito claims this decision won’t open the door to denial of other kinds of coverage, but why it wouldn’t is not clear. Lithwick says this either means some religions — Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wiccans — are not to be taken seriously. Or, he’s saying that some kinds of medical coverage don’t need to be taken seriously.

… while they concede that the government has a meaningful interest in assuring that Americans receive reproductive care, it’s actually only kind of serious, and not nearly as serious as the interest in preventing, say, the spread of disease (in the case of denied vaccinations). Here is Justice Alito: “HHS asserts that the contraceptive mandate serves a variety of important interests, but many of these are couched in very broad terms, such as promoting ‘public health’ and ‘gender equality.’ ”

Silly, silly gender equality. In silly quotation marks! You know what isn’t in quotation marks in this opinion? Infectious diseases. Because there’s a real government interest. Or, as Erick Erickson, the conservative blogger put it today: “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.”

Erick Son of Erick is such a prince, ain’t he?

Anyway, early indications are that Dems intend to campaign on this decision. Dave Weigel writes that this decision potentially could cost the Republicans in November. Let’s hope.

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17 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Stephen Stralka  •  Jul 1, 2014 @12:59 pm

    One thing we can be sure of, at any rate, is that it isn’t an activist decision, because we know conservatives are against judicial activism. Mind you, I would have been tempted to call it an activist decision, since it empowers courts to exempt both corporations and individuals from general laws basically at whim, but that’s obviously not possible. I’ll have to try to come up with a more accurate term for it, like “freedom.”

  2. Swami  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:09 pm

    consequence free sex
    Really? If that doesn’t show a gnarled up mind, nothing does! Erick better be a trembling mightily when he gets before the judgment seat of God.. Cause he’s gonna get punished for all the times he’s whacked his carrot and thought he got away with it.

  3. Dukkha Earl  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:11 pm

    Dude, you misspelled “freedumb”!

  4. joanr16  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:25 pm

    Still so angry on Day 2 that I can’t articulate. Crap crap crap crap crap…. That’s better. Not really.

    Anthony Kennedy, you worm, how do you live with yourself?

  5. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:28 pm

    It’s really kind of scary, when you think about it.

    There was a time when this was a ruductio ad absurdum. “If you truly think that an abortion at any stage is murder, then you’d be saying that certain forms of birth control (like the IUD, which, at the time, was believed to prevent implantation – but I’ve been told that it seems much more likely that it prevents fertilization) are also murder!”

    And of course, people would say “oh, come now, don’t treat people like *idiots*. No one would ever advance that argument. But once it’s implanted, it’s *different*.”

    Trouble is, unless people were idiots, they’d have to accept that, well, gee, there’s no real justification for moral outrage about either very early term abortion, or preventing a fertilized egg from implanting.”

    So they became idiots.

    This, by itself, isn’t scary. What’s scary is that in the aftermath of Roe v Wade, this great moral outrage didn’t occur. Not for a few years. Not until the feds decided that they couldn’t fund a school that practiced racial segregation. And then… well, you couldn’t rally people across the country on racial segregation mandated by Deeply Held Religious Beliefs. You needed something else. So they settled on Abortion.

    It would have been not-as-scary if people had become idiots (NB: “idiot” = “person who thinks preventing implanting is murder” versus “person who has problems with abortion”) out of meaningful questions. But this was a ginned up outrage over something that should have been recognizably noxious to most – demanding federal support of segregation.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:32 pm

    “Erick Son of Erick is such a prince, ain’t he?”

    Yeah – a real prince.
    !Kind of like Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” – only without the emotional intelligence that Князь Лев Никола́евич Мы́шкин had.

    So, let me see if I’ve got this straight:
    54 years ago, JFK had to repeatedly tell everyone how his Catholic religious beliefs, and those of the Pope, wouldn’t affect his decision-making as POTUS.

    And then yesterday, 5 Catholic SCOTUS Justices just inflicted what is essentially Catholic Church anti-abortion/contraception dogma on the rest of us.

    Did they check with Pope Francis on this ‘corporations are people too, my friends?’
    I think not.
    I don’t think he’s agree.
    They just like “screwing” with women – and not in a way that at all pleases the women.
    But, then, what’s the point of “screwing ” with them if the lil’ ladies have any fun?

    The midterms in November may have just become even more interesting than conservatives have wanted.

    ‘Please proceed, GOP.
    Please, please, proceed…’

  7. Stella  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:43 pm

    It’s not a War on Women – it’s a
    Supreme Jihad!

  8. Swami  •  Jul 1, 2014 @1:55 pm

    I’d like to know a little more about the concept of “closely held”. Is there a way to quantify what constitutes closely held, or is it just an abstraction used to provide cover. Even at best, with a corporation the concept of “closely held” is always subject to be a variable by the very nature of being a corporation.

    Normally I have the ability to flip things in my mind so as to make sense of almost anything whether I agree with the logic or not. But this decision is so layered in vague abstractions that were intended to arrive at a given conclusion so that logic could no longer follow the path to the same conclusion. Meaning, they got where they wanted to go with this decision, but didn’t do it by logic or law.. They did it by emotional bias.

  9. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jul 1, 2014 @2:15 pm

    Swami, I know that “closely held” has some meaning, but I’m not sure of the specifics. The key is, it’s not like a publicly traded corporation. If you said “why don’t we buy an ownership interest in HL stock and dump anyone on the board of directors who disagrees?” the answer would be, you *can’t* – there’s a small group of stockholders who have a majority interest.

    And I have to grant them this: by restricting it to closely held corporations, they did put a meaningful limit on the ruling. I still think it’s unjust, but it’s easier to swallow that, say, Hobby Lobby has “religious interests” than it does to say that Apple or Google does.

  10. uncledad  •  Jul 1, 2014 @2:20 pm

    “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.”

    Typical bloated pale brained conservative tripe, designed for a cable news headline!

    I think the left will always lose these phony “religious” arguments, this country is far too dim to understand the nuances associated with a scientific analysis of morality. The case should have been argued from the gender and religion neutral position that the employee’s insurance is part of the employee’s compensation and cannot be regulated by the employer because FREEDOM!

  11. Swami  •  Jul 1, 2014 @4:48 pm

    Maybe it’s me, but it seems to me that if you view religion as something that trumps then you’ve got the wrong concept of what religion is or should be. Shouldn’t religion be edifying to have any real value rather than be used as a cudgel of condemnation?

  12. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jul 1, 2014 @6:58 pm

    Swami, I kind of agree with you. I think religion can be useful when it makes you think about other things. I know of people who sincerely believe that an IUD prevents a fertilized egg from implanting, and therefore, for their own sakes, won’t use one. That’s cool.

    I’ve never heard of any religion before saying they’d have a problem if one of their members provided insurance to employees that would allow those employees to do this. They’d still think it was wrong – but they’d recognize that they don’t have control over the actions of other people.

    The way they spun this into a wedge issue is really pretty disgusting. This is especially true because we’ve long had precedent for this kind of thing. We let you follow the dictates of your faith *if* you predominately cater to your own faithful. But if you are trying to serve the greater public, you have to agree to play by the rules everyone else plays by. This is a perfectly reasonable compromise. But that’s not good enough because it doesn’t let them attack Obama.

  13. uncledad  •  Jul 1, 2014 @9:04 pm

    Well we know were this whole thing is headed don’t we!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLVStPbk

  14. dianne  •  Jul 2, 2014 @9:33 am

    Not too long ago, the evangelicals were in an uproar over stem cell research -(snowflake babies?) and I noticed within my circle that the minute one got leukemia, suddenly it was a-ok. How long before your employer becomes the real death panel that they were all so scared of.

  15. Yastreblyansky  •  Jul 3, 2014 @8:39 am

    “it probably wouldn’t reduce their insurance costs much, if at all”

    It should have not effect on the premiums, and actuarially speaking it ought to raise them: costs to insurers of unintended pregnancies are higher than the cost of supplying family planning. This turns out to be a well established fact. It’s been making me crazy.

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