On January 28, nineteen U.S. Senators and 91 members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, filed briefs with the U.S Supreme Court supporting the Obama administration’s legal war against Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of craft stores that provides health insurance for employees but refuses for religious reasons to cover morning after pills such as Plan B and Ella.
Senator Patty Murray claims “what is at stake in this case before the Supreme Court is whether a CEO’s personal beliefs can trump a woman’s right to access free or low cost contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. “
Nonsense. Not one word in the Affordable Care Act guarantees that health plans cover birth control products. There is no such right. Sect. 2713 of the law says insurers must cover whatever services the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force rates A or B, and empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services – a presidential appointee – to add others. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t call for covering birth control.
It’s President Obama and his HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who insist plans cover it .The next occupant of the White House could do the opposite. So this court battle isn’t about what Senator Murray incorrectly calls a “right.” Women have a constitutionally protected right to use birth control, but not to get it at work
.And access is a trumped up issue -- a straw woman.
The expensive part of getting birth control is visiting the gynecologist for a prescription, and all health plans (including Hobby Lobby’s) cover that. The Hobby Lobby battle is over who pays the cost of the morning after pill – a mere $35. That’s less than the cost of a haircut and blow dry, a carton of Pampers (128 count) or dinner for two at Applebee’s. Definitely affordable for women at Hobby Lobby where starting pay is $17 an hour plus benefits. Poor women can get help with birth control through Medicaid, federal community health clinics and Planned Parenthood.
So this battle is not about access. President Obama is picking this fight for political reasons. His justice department argues that saving women a small fee ($35 for the Ella pill) outweighs honoring a business owner’s religious views. Fortunately, that’s not what the U.S. Constitution says.
The First Amendment bars government from “prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” That means freedom not only to worship but also to live and run your business according to the teachings of your faith.