By now you’ve probably read an exhaustive number of blog posts, new items, tweets, social media memes, and opinion pieces on today’s 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which is self-insured, does not pay for so-called “morning after” contraceptives. Its owners, who are Evangelical Christians, believe that morning after pills are abortifacients; therefore, paying for them would be equivalent to paying for abortion, which goes against their religious beliefs.
To set the record straight, Hobby Lobby’s employee health insurance already pays for 16 different kinds of contraceptives. The company also has no interest in “denying” or “limiting” employee access to morning after pills. Any employee of Hobby Lobby can use these drugs. They just have to pay for them out of pocket.
The Supreme Court decision was actually very straightforward. Megan McArdle summarized it well:
The court found that owners of closely held corporations have the same rights as sole proprietors under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They cannot be forced to violate their religious beliefs unless the government can genuinely find no other way to achieve a compelling public purpose.
That’s it. Makes sense to me, and I agree with the decision.
I also think the Left is in such an utter state of hysteria for two reasons.
First, this decision reinforced the primacy of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Left tried very hard to pretend that it didn’t exist, or that it was irrelevant, when they declared war on several small business owners who declined to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. But this ruling again established the fact that individuals who own small businesses (or larger businesses that are closely held) have the right to make business decisions based on their personal beliefs.
Second, this decision severely limits the ability of the government to implement expansions of power by executive order or Federal agency mandate.
Right now, the Affordable Care Act gives HHS the power to mandate what services medical insurance policies must cover. It’s not far-fetched to wonder how long it would take before the government extended those mandates beyond insurance companies and imposed them on medical service providers, including Catholic or other religious-affiliated hospitals. It’s also not far-fetched to assume that eventually, all ACA-compliant medical facilities could be required provide abortion services or abortifacient drugs, or else risk losing government subsidies or Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements.
If this sounds far fetched, remember that the ACA originally gave HHS the power to cut off all Federal Medicaid funds for states that refused to expand their Medicaid programs as outlined in the ACA, until the Supreme Court ruled that withholding those funds would be illegal.
But today’s decision essentially prevents the government from having that kind of dangerously overreaching power. And I think that’s a good thing.
What do you think?