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Hobby Lobby Files Suit Opposing Affordable Care Act Birth Control Benefit

Robin Marty

The retailer claims being forced to cover IUDs and emergency contraception violates their religious rights.  But what effect would the coverage have for their female employees?

Emergency contraception (EC) is contraception. It prevents pregnancy, and by definition does not cause abortions. But mischaracterizing EC as an abortifacient is just one of the excuses that craft store chain Hobby Lobby is using to oppose the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, a rule that requires that all insurance plans offer coverage of all FDA-approved methods of contraception without a co pay, including both emergency contraception and sterilization.

The Oklahoma-based company isn’t the first non-religious entity to sue the administration over the new rule, but they have staked claim as the first non-Catholic based one.  “We hope that this lawsuit, on behalf of such a large and prominent evangelical Christian business, will draw attention to the fact that the government is trying to force people of all different faiths to violate their faith,” Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorney Kyle Duncan told reporters during a conference call. “This is not by any means a Catholic-only issue. Some of the drugs involved in the mandate can cause an early abortion. And many Americans who are not Catholic have a problem with this.”

But expanding the opposition from extreme anti-choice Catholics to extreme anti-choice Catholics and Evangelical Christians isn’t the only ground this lawsuit is breaking.

According to the lawsuit:

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“The Green family’s religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices….The administrative rule at issue in this case runs roughshod over the Green family’s religious beliefs, and the beliefs of millions of other Americans, by forcing them to provide health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, as well as related education and counseling.”

The lawsuit specifically claims that Plan B, Ella, and IUDs “can prevent the implantation of a human embryo in the wall of the uterus, which constitutes an abortion,” despite scientific studies saying that the medications inhibit ovulation instead, and despite the fact that a pregnancy is not established unless and until an embryo successfuly implants in the lining of the uterus.

The company says that it pays 80 percent above the federal minimum wage, meaning an hourly employee would make approximately $13 an hour pre-tax. With a 40-hour work week, an employee would be earning roughly $520 a week, or $2100 a month before taxes. As many analyses have clearly shown, birth control is costly, especially for an hourly or low-wage worker and especially when factoring in related doctor’s visits and monthly recurring costs. Moreover, covering birth control is cost-effective: As with any prevention intervention, it is far less expensive to prevent an unwanted or unintended pregnancy through coverage of birth control. And finally, insurance policies that are part of a benefits package, just like retirement, vacation pay, or other elements of a benefits package are earned and therefore owned by the employee.

Company CEO David Green argues that not following the mandate would cost his company $1.3 million per day or a loss of their religious liberty should they be forced to comply. Currently, the chain is spending half of its annual profits to fund religious ministries at a rate of “hundreds of millions of dollars per year,” as Green reported to Shopping Business Center last May. This includes a $70 million “gift” to Oral Roberts University in 2007.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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