If you haven’t been following the headlines, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is headed “over the cliff,” today, with respect to its decision to defy the Obamacare mandate covering birth control and “morning after” contraceptives.
Here’s what makes the story interesting. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. is a privately owned company, founded and operated by David Green. Green is very well known as an outspoken Evangelical Christian who has publicly professed to building his business based on Biblical principles. Like the Cathy family who operates the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain, Green closes his stores on Sunday. He also contributes millions of dollars each year to charity. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. is self-insured, and provides full coverage health insurance to 13,000 of its company’s 21,000 employees. He runs a clinic that provides free health care to insured employees, and reduced cost health services to others. Hobby Lobby also sets its starting pay for full time employees at $11.00 an hour, $3.75 more than the Federal minimum wage.
All of these items read like a proverbial wish list of “fair working conditions,” the kinds of things that should elicit strong support from liberals.
But apparently none of this matters any more, for David Green and his family have committed an essentially unpardonable sin in the eyes of liberals: they view morning after pills as simply another form of pharmaceutical abortifacients.* Consequently, the health insurance that his company offers its employees pays for other forms of birth control, but does not pay for morning after pills. (Employees are not “prohibited” from using morning after pills – that would be impossible, of course – but if they use them they must pay for them out of pocket.)
This runs afoul of the new Federal employer group health insurance coverage mandates issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, which state that all insureds must be offered the full range of birth control and “morning after” contraceptive treatments, with no co-pay, co-insurance, or deductible charges.
Earlier in the year, the Greens filed suit in Federal Court, claiming that the mandate violated their First Amendment right of free exercise of religion, since it would force them to engage in a practice (providing a drug that might induce abortions) that runs contrary to their religious beliefs. A lower court ruled that as a privately owned business, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. did not meet the definition of a “religious group” and therefore its religious freedom would not be “substantially burdoned” by the HHS mandate. Last week, Supreme Court justice Sandra Sotomayor concurred with the lower court’s ruling and denied Hobby Lobby’s request to be included in an injunction given to religious organizations while their own lawsuits are pending.
After the Supreme Court ruling, an attorney for the company issued a statement that David Green has no intention of complying with the HHS mandate, which takes effect on Jan. 1. 2013. If he does not comply, his business faces a fine of $100 per day for each insured employee, or approximately $1.3 million dollars a day. Green has vowed to pay the fine until his lawsuit is finally settled.
Unsurprisingly, despite Hobby Lobby’s impressive record as an employer that provides fair working conditions to its employees, it has received zero support from the Left. Instead, liberals have tried to demonize Hobby Lobby. They have smeared the Greens as “liars” because their beliefs about morning after pills have been contradicted by recent scientific studies. And they have accused the Greens of that most dastardly of social sins – they allegedly want to control what goes on inside their employees’ bedrooms. Oh, the horror.
Consequently, liberals seem perfectly OK with the punitive destruction of an otherwise good businesses simply because its owners publicly defend their traditional Christian beliefs and refuse to worship the politically correct gods of “reproductive choice” offered by the state. This is, apparently, the new liberal litmus test for social responsibility. Things that used to serve as markers for “corporate responsibility” and “workplace fairness” no longer seem to be of any consequence. And this new litmus test has been accompanied by a huge media and entertainment propaganda campaign centered around the lie than anyone who questions the HHS mandate wants to “ban contraception.”
But when you strip away all the noise and trappings, the Left’s position is rather ugly and hard to comprehend:
- The guarantee of free birth control supersedes the right of a company to stay in business and keep its workers employed and compensated with pay and benefits
- A company has no right to stay in business if they question a government mandate, even one they find morally objectionable
- Punitive and silly sanctions against such a company are perfectly acceptable (e.g. including single male employees in the tabulation of a fine directly related to morning after pills, which are prescribed only to women)
- There is little or no concern about whether the money extorted by the government through such means could have otherwise been put to better use
So here’s a challenge to our liberal friends: instead of the usual boilerplate arguments about “reproductive choice” and “right to privacy”, why not defend the positions I’ve outlined above? I’d like to know why being obedient to government mandates regarding employee benefits supersedes a company’s right to remain in business. Then you could explain how putting a company out of business because it doesn’t pay for morning after pills benefits the common good. Or, how outrageous fines levied by the government constitute the most beneficial use of private money.
Come on – the Greens are worth over $2 billion, so you’ve got some time to think about it.
*When the FDA originally approved the ‘Plan B’ pill in 1999, it published the following statement: “Plan B works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation).” Even though subsequent research involving ‘morning after’ drugs like Plan B (now called Plan B One Step) and Ella has failed to validate all of these claims, and the manufacturer of Plan B has petitioned the FDA many times, the FDA has declined to retract this statement. Consequently, conservative religious groups, both Protestant and Catholic, consider ‘morning after’ pills to be the equivalent of an abortifacient, since they might prevent a fertilized egg from thriving. Because many ardent pro-lifers define human life as beginning at fertilization, they argue that they are, at worst, erring on the side of caution by opposing the use or funding of Plan B.
If you want to support Hobby Lobby Stores, there is already a plan underway to make Saturday Jan. 5 “Hobby Lobby Day.” Visit the stores (if there is one near you) and buy something. Or buy something online at http://www.hobbylobby.com.