Democrats have proposed a bill in Congress that seeks to overturn the court’s recent ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. Last week the Supreme Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prevents the government from forcing Hobby Lobby to provide its employees with contraceptives that go against Hobby Lobby’s religious views. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an employer is required to provide insurance to eligible employees that covers all 20 types of contraceptives that have been approved by the FDA. Hobby Lobby refused to provide insurance coverage for 4 of the 20 contraceptives because those 4 have the potential to abort a baby in the early stages of pregnancy, which violates Hobby Lobby’s Christian beliefs against abortion.
Freedom of religion is a well-established right for individuals and the government can’t infringe upon that right unless it’s absolutely necessary for a compelling reason. RFRA essentially extended that same protection to companies. The government agreed that RFRA applied to companies, but only wanted to apply RFRA to non-profit companies, which Hobby Lobby is not. The Court saw clearly that there was no basis on which to exclude for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby from protection under RFRA. Therefore, the government is required to give Hobby Lobby the same type of accommodation it had given non-profit companies.
Liberals have largely overblown the implications of the decision, calling it “war against women’s health.” In her dissent Justice Ginsburg raises concerns about the slippery slope this ruling will create whereby an employer can opt out of any law because of religious objections. Hillary Clinton added to the frenzy, saying: “A salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception … is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.” The bill’s co-sponsor, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said the decision “targets” women.
It’s interesting that liberals are using the very same slippery-slope argument that they disregard when it’s applied to issues with which they agree. Whenever conservatives argue that same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy or polyandry or the end of traditional marriage, liberals often don’t find the reasoning convincing. Yet, when we’re talking about birth control, the sky is falling. In any event, the Court narrowly tailored its decision to prevent such far reaching implications. Religious freedom is not absolute. Nothing in the Court’s decision gives a corporation the right to be accommodated regardless of the impact on women. Women are not being targeted. As to Hillary Clinton, independent fact checkers have concluded that her claim is misleading. Hobby Lobby’s health insurance plan still offers coverage for 16 of 20 forms of contraceptives. Hobby Lobby employees clearly won’t be denied all contraceptives.
As some have commented, the real problem for some is not that the Court’s ruling is dangerous for women or employs bad reasoning. The anger is really about protecting a particular religious view that some don’t like. It’s wrong for one to go out of their way just to antagonize other people’s views when you can avoid it while still accomplishing your objective. That is the opposite of tolerance.
This latest bill by Democrats is a pathetic attempt to rally women supporters in time for the November elections. You could blame it on the nature of politics, but the public bears some of the blame. People respond to empty sound-bites that rile them up, rather than reasoned analysis. Since politicians, whether Democratic or Republican, care most about staying in office, they are happy to feed the public what they want even if they know it’s just hype.