Think about the Hobby Lobby Decision…
Much has been said about corporations being people. Obviously they aren’t an actual physical person, however because they represent people in the form of shareholders, and they act like a unified entity, the law has granted them status akin to people. In many cases this has been very good for business and the economy, affording protections and considerations that have allowed growth and prosperity for shareholders and the general populace at large. It has also brought some controversy in areas such as campaign finance law, etc. Along with the status of personhood, has also come the notion that corporations should have a conscience, that they shouldn’t just be about dollars and cents, but that they need to act in a moral and socially conscious way. Much of this outcry about the need for corporations to have a conscience has come from the left side of the political spectrum, the right being categorized as not caring about people, but rather only interested in corporate profit. At least that is the prevailing stereotype.
Enter Hobby Lobby and the Affordable Care Act, (ACA.) The ruling from Kathleen Sebelius interpreted the ACA to mandate that employers provide not only contraceptives, but also abortion drugs, commonly known as “morning after pills.” Acting on their conscience (religious based) Hobby Lobby sued to not provide abortion drugs. The Supreme Court ruled in their favor, stating that closely held (family) corporations could object based on the Clinton era act protecting religious freedoms, that strengthened the religious clauses in the First Amendment. Predictably, many have decried the actions of Hobby Lobby and raised the flag of the “War on Women.” Apparently “corporations acting with a conscience” only applies if that conscience agrees with one’s political views. Without getting too deep into the policy or legal weeds, I raise this simply as an observation of not being able to have your cake and eat it too. If we want corporations to have a conscience, then we will have to respect that conscience even if it disagrees with our political beliefs or our interests.
If we preach acceptance and tolerance, then we must be ready to exercise it. This was a genuine fundamental religious belief held by the Hobby Lobby owners, and one which may have seen Hobby Lobby liquidate, rather than provide. Societies must balance many conflicting needs to preserve the rights we all love, and have come to expect. In this case it was religious freedom versus the ability of Government to mandate health care coverage levels. Do I see minuses with this decision? Of course- it opens up holes in all Government policies for religious based loopholes. What if a company’s religious beliefs include not giving transfusions? Do I see positives as well? Yes- without the ability to act on your religious beliefs, you have no religion. Had the Government made Hobby Lobby adhere to the ACA then it would in a sense mandate that people could not follow their religion. It’s not a simple us vs. them question, or a black and white one. It’s nuanced and requires thoughtful discussion. So let’s not just react to this decision, let us think through the myriad of policy tendrils and try to see this from both perspectives. It’s an exercise we as a country rarely seem to do anymore.
From the Hobby Lobby perspective, life begins at conception. Birth control prevents conception but does not kill and this was not an issue. Hobby Lobby provided 16 different forms of contraception with a zero co-pay. However, once life has begun inside a mother, to stop that life from developing, one would have to take ACTIVE steps to end that life, -otherwise a baby will be born. Hence, the morning after pill is seen as murder by Hobby Lobby, like any other abortion. People don’t like to pay for murder. (We have to do so somewhat through the Government: wars, executions, etc. but paying for it privately is another level entirely.) If a mugger stabs a pregnant woman in the stomach and kills the child, but leaves the mother alive, do we charge him with murder, or charge him with a simple assault with a deadly weapon? Does it matter if the mother wanted the baby or not? Does it matter if it’s the mugger’s action, or the mother’s own action in having an abortion- via late term abortion, or morning after pill abortion? The result is the same, a life is extinguished.
So I don’t cast this as a “war on women” or even a “war on abortion” rather I see this as a Constitutional question defining the limits of religious freedom. Unfortunately the Justices split along political lines, which is an unfortunate shame. As a reminder, it was conservative justice Alito who crossed the expected political spectrum to surprise everyone with the ruling that the ACA was legal in the first place. Sadly, justices crossing political lines are becoming rarer these days. Let’s not vilify him for protecting the first amendment. And let’s not cast this as a war on women. Many women do not believe in abortion, and remember that half of the abortions in the U.S. are of female children. Please people, don’t “react,” think! Don’t just follow the bandwagon of those who would like to rile you up as a campaign issue. Nothing is ever simple. Peace.