I feel like I’m losing my mind. Is this America in 2014? Or, did I somehow end up in a parallel universe, like on the t.v. show “Sliders”? I’m kind of sick and spinning. But I have not eaten a mushroom or anything. In fact I’m quite sober but still feel strangely disoriented.
When I blogged about the Hobby Lobby “religious objection to insurance coverage of contraception” issue back in January I carefully delineated the reasons that it made no sense, both from the standpoint of “religious principles” as well as scientific fact regarding birth control. I also pointed out, as have many others, the implications for the ability of employers to deny all kinds of medical care based on the “religious” premise. I thought the case was clearly absurd and I was sure the Supreme Court would agree.
Apparently I was mistaken. Today I have learned that not only has the Court decided in Hobby Lobby’s favor, but also, it has sent several other similar cases which were previously decided in the employees’ favor, back to the lower courts for reexamination! And the cases which the lower courts had previously decided in the employers’ favor were allowed to stand as is.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, given the SCOTUS decision in 2012 upholding the Citizens United ruling that corporations are persons whose First Amendment right to free speech includes unlimited financial influence over the political process, when it overturned the state of Montana’s restriction on corporate political donations. And now these corporate persons have religious beliefs as well.
“Corporate personhood” notwithstanding, though, what I find really shocking about the Hobby Lobby decision is that the Court has established a law giving certain “religious beliefs” precedence over scientific fact. I had said in my previous blog post, “While everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, no matter how peculiar, can the same be said about scientific fact?” I was very sure that once the Court looked at the facts, Hobby Lobby would have no case. I was wrong.
As I have discussed previously, Hobby Lobby argued that providing insurance coverage for “abortifacients” such as Plan B, Elle and the IUD violated its deeply held religious belief that human life begins at conception.
Never mind that there is no basis in scripture or tradition for that belief which only became popular among evangelicals in the 1980s. Like many “religious beliefs” the fundamentalist idea of a fertilized ovum as a “person” is complete fabrication and inconsistent with the larger Judeo-Christian tradition. But, that is ok, because it is not the role of the Court to determine the legitimacy of such fictional beliefs or even their internal consistency.
Never mind that the fundamentalists have had to invent a whole new definition of “pregnancy” as beginning at fertilization, in order to claim that preventing implantation of a fertilized ovum is the same as an “abortion.” This is in contrast to the established medical definition of pregnancy as occurring at implantation and “abortion” as the loss of an embryo after implantation in the womb.
What should have made the above “beliefs” a moot point is that the birth control methods in question do not, in fact, prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum! While the FDA labeling for some unknown reason states that it “may” prevent implantation, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to substantiate this. None whatsoever. Therefore, the Court should have concluded, based on the evidence, that Hobby Lobby’s concerns are unfounded.
Instead, amazingly, the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held religious belief” that such methods are “abortifacient” when in fact they are not. So, it doesn’t matter if something is factually true or not; as long as a corporate “person” believes it to be true, that’s all you need for a “religious” exemption to the law.
In addition, the Court specifically stated that this ruling applies only to the evangelical Christian corporations’ religious objection to contraception. Exception to the insurance law does not apply to the beliefs of corporations run by Jehovah’s Witnesses who object to blood transfusions, or Jewish or Muslim corporations objecting to drugs or tissue grafts made from pork, Seventh Day Adventists, Hindus or Jains rejecting any medicines derived from animal products, or Christian Scientists who refuse any medical intervention whatsoever. Therefore the Court decision is clearly in violation of the First Amendment which forbids establishment of religion, in this case, fundamentalist Christianity, as the law of the land.
As if all of the above were not confusing enough, the FDA labeling of regular oral contraceptives includes the same unsubstantiated statement, “may prevent implantation.” This is an important point for many fundamentalists who oppose all contraception, but interestingly Hobby Lobby did not object to covering those medications! And the Court completely failed to question the inconsistency, while today deciding in favor of other fundie corporate “persons” on this very same issue, ruling that they do not have to cover any contraceptives on their insurance plan.