Down on the Hobby Lobby Plantation

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healthcare_rightIt’s a good thing I have little interest in arts and crafts. For two reasons, one being that if I were an arts and crafts person, I would probably be very bad at whatever arts and crafts I did.

The second reason it’s a good thing is because it makes it easier to boycott Hobby Lobby and its so-called Christian-based business practices. For I need scrapbooking supplies less than I need to give money to another sanctimonious corporation whose concept of social responsibility represents an affront to women’s health care rights.

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has rightly provoked public outrage. Yet even more outrageous is the rationale behind the Court’s decision. Apparently, only Hobby Lobby owner David Green’s “sincere belief” that the birth control methods in question (two intrauterine devices and two “morning after” pills) cause abortion was necessary for the Court to grant legal exemption from the law.

In fact, as Robin Acarian in the Los Angeles Times and other observers note, these types of contraception do not cause abortions. The Court majority can’t plead scientific ignorance on this. A friend-of-the-court brief filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) clarified for the justices that “emergency contraception” will prevent pregnancy, but it will not disrupt an established pregnancy.

It’s a remarkable precedent set here. Is an employer who now believes cancer is “God’s Will” no longer obligated to include cancer treatment as a covered benefit under their health plan? Obviously, not, most observers would say. But when the health concern is women and contraception it’s apparent now that different rules apply. Once again, religious ideology is being used to penalize women for daring to assert the right to control their own bodies.

In response to the Court decision, ACOG issued a press release reiterating a basic truth: “All health care decisions—including decisions about contraception—should be made by a woman and her doctor, based on the patient’s needs and her current health. Her employer’s religious beliefs should not overrule her doctor’s advice.”

As ACOG states, contraceptives are “essential health care for women.” With nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States unplanned, contraception remains a vitally necessary resource for American women and their families. As a component of family planning, contraceptives indeed contribute to better health outcomes for mothers and children.

Does any of this matter to Hobby Lobby’s owners? With 22,000 employees, 525 stores, and a company owner with a net worth of $4.5 billion, the self-promoting Christianity of Hobby Lobby founder David Green instead reveals a version of “family values” sorely lacking in real morality.

Ironically, “morning after” contraceptives were included in Hobby Lobby’s pre-ACA health plan, as Stephanie Mencimer reported earlier this year in Mother Jones. Tellingly, that was before the rightwing discovered the “evils” of Obamacare. The company’s retirement plan also invests in contraception manufacturers, according to another report.

MG281_DefendWomensReproductiveRights_0Yet, give Mr. Green credit. In some ways, Hobby Lobby is the quintessential family success story. If by success you mean a family business where the owner becomes a billionaire, while the majority of employees get by on more than modest non-union wages. And the father figure of Mr. Green, wise old plantation manager that he is, gets to sit in judgment of the “morality” of the health care choices made by his children-employees. The true meaning of corporate personhood in action!

What other “sincere beliefs” in the name of religion will now be used to deny social justice in health care? The Hobby Lobby ruling is clearly an anti-family attack on women’s health care rights. It is also illustrative of the underlying paternalism and authoritarianism prevalent in the modern corporate work culture. In a better world, strong democratic unions would be the best counter to these intrusions of paternalistic management. Single-payer health care would also remove private employers from any say in what is essential medicine in the health care system.

For now, at least, we can only hope those who support women’s rights will in their millions find a way through independent political action and protest to express their own sincere belief that full, comprehensive health care, including access to affordable contraceptive care, is the inviolate right of all.

1 comments on “Down on the Hobby Lobby Plantation”

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