Monday, March 24, 2014

The Hobby Lobby Case And The Supremes

Tomorrow the Supreme Court of the United States is going to hear oral arguments in two cases having to do with the ACA's coverage of contraception for women (and, incidentally, for men, given that it takes two to tango, and also because the same rules would most likely cover a male contraceptive pill if it ever became generally accepted).  The more famous of the cases is the Hobby Lobby case:

The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties don't have a problem with offering insurance that covers most forms of birth control, but they aren't willing to cover emergency contraceptives — like Plan B or ella -- or IUDs. Hobby Lobby contends its "religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception." The question these cases are seeking to solve is whether for-profit companies have a right to exercise religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law passed in 1993 that states the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability." If they do, does the government have a compelling interest to override it in this instance?

From my divine (not lawyerly) standpoint, these cases matter greatly because if for-profit corporations can be regarded as having religious beliefs of the type covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, then what's to stop a firm from discriminating against women, say? 

After all, some fundamentalist sects argue that all women should stay at home and more of them argue that no woman should ever be in a position to lead men.  I find it hard to see how for-profit firms could have a religious exemption applicable only to the coverage of contraception and not to all the ancient misogynistic and anti-gays&lesbians ideas so easily found in various holy texts.

Then there's the question of defining emergency contraceptives and IUDs as abortifacients.  That's the "scientific" basis of the suits, I guess, despite pretty obvious counterarguments.  Does it matter if a legal case is based on possible pseudoscience?