If you’ve been following national news lately, you’ll know that last week the Supreme Court held a hearing between the owners of national crafting chain, Hobby Lobby, and Kathleen Sebelius who is the current U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services secretary.
The case, in simple and generalized terms, deals with the Affordable Care Act and whether requiring companies to provide all forms of contraception to employees violates religious freedom. The law states that companies must provide health insurance for their employees that cover the costs of different and all forms of contraception.
Hobby Lobby is a religiously (Christian) affiliated company that takes issue with covering emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and IUD’s because they believe these methods end human life after conception. Sebelius is defending the Affordable Care Act while the Greens, the owners of Hobby Lobby, are citing religious beliefs as the reason why they should be exempt from providing certain forms of birth control to their female employees. They are also arguing that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, they, a for-profit company, have the right to exercise their religious freedom in not providing their female employees emergency contraceptives.
The way I see it, the case comes down to a central issue that has been debated since the genesis of our country: how much should the government regulate, require, and enforce mandates for companies?
I will be upfront and admit that this is a complex and messy case dealing with core values that people are passionate and vocal about. It’s a hot-button issue for a reason and I’m not even going to pretend like this relatively short article provides in-depth analysis or argumentation of one side of the issue. Google the topic for more information, editorials and rants. There’s plenty out there, trust me.
However, I do want to point out some key reasons why I believe the Supreme Court should rule in favor of Sebelius and the Affordable Care Act; that Hobby Lobby should be required to provide emergency contraceptives in their various health insurance policies.
Hobby Lobby does not require all of their employees to be Christian. They do not discriminate on the basis of religion in the hiring process. Therefore, there is a good chance that non-Christians work at Hobby Lobby and that these female employees would be denied the means and access through their health coverage to emergency contraceptives.
One could argue that anyone applying for a job at Hobby Lobby would know the company’s policy and could simply choose to work somewhere that provided emergency contraceptives in the health coverage. However, I don’t think it’s as simple as, “just go find another job.”
It’s important to realize that this new Act will not only affect future employees, but also current employees. How will someone who is not Christian and been working at Hobby Lobby for 10 years be affected? Will they be grandfathered in or simply denied access to these forms of contraceptives that other companies are providing for their employees?
I also do not think it is within the legal bounds to enforce or impose one’s own religious practices or beliefs, or the repercussions of those beliefs on anyone else. Sure, the Green’s attitude toward emergency contraceptives is motivated by their religious beliefs and that is fine. They are entitled to their own beliefs just like anyone else. However, they should not be allowed to regulate the actions and decisions of anyone else based on those religious beliefs, especially when it comes to something as personal as contraceptive use and reproductive rights.
Under the Act, for-profit companies should offer the same types of coverage to their employees regardless of personal beliefs, attitudes, or opinions about the Act and health coverage. It should ultimately be up to the female employee to decide the form of contraception she wants to use and whether her own religious beliefs influence her decision. Employees have just as much legal right as the CEO of the company (or anyone else in the company for that matter) to exercise one’s own religious freedom and how that influences decisions such as contraceptive use.
That being said, I recognize the other side of the argument that says companies should have agency in deciding how they want to run the company; that the government should not be telling each CEO what to do and how to do it by enforcing different mandates.
Like I said earlier, it’s a sticky, complicated, messy case that deserves much more than a short article in discussing. I’d encourage you to do some research and find out where you stand on this issue because it might be affecting us soon-to-be college graduates entering the workforce.
Meg Monacelli would love for religious beliefs and politics to coexist peacefully. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs do not mesh with logistics of the Affordable Care Act, and this has been taken all the way to to Supreme Court.
Employees have just as many rights as companies, and deserve access to all contraceptive methods.
Exercising religious freedom can only go so far, until others are affected.