What’s abortifacient? Disputes over birth control fuel Obamacare fight

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WASHINGTON (RNS) Conception. Pregnancy. Abortion. Abortifacient.

Those words today are in a rhetorical swamp where contesting religious, medical and political views muddy understanding. And soon the U.S. Supreme Court will wade in.

On March 25, it will hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s provision that employers must provide insurance coverage with no co-pays for contraception.

A fundamental legal question in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is whether corporations, like individuals, have a right to religious speech. Hobby Lobby is owned by devout evangelical Christians who say they should not be forced to provide contraception services that they find immoral.

While Hobby Lobby officials say they don’t object to all contraception, they refuse to provide access to “abortifacient” (causing an abortion) drugs. Since the mandate covers all contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, how these methods work and whether they are abortifacients matters.

The FDA’s descriptions never mention the terms “abortifacient” or “abortion.” It spells out the primary ways each method works:

  • Many prevent a woman from releasing eggs (ovulation)
  • Many prevent sperm from reaching or fertilizing the egg
  • A few interfere with a fertilized egg attaching (implanting) in the womb (uterus), which is essential for a viable pregnancy.

That last one is key to the objection by Hobby Lobby’s evangelical owners, and it gets to the very heart of debates over when life begins, how to define pregnancy and what constitutes an abortion.

Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, speaks at the Religion News Writers Association Conference in Austin, Texas on Thursday (Sept. 26). RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, speaks at the Religion Newswriters Association Conference in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 26. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Hobby Lobby already provides insurance coverage for 16 other forms of birth control, including pills that prevent ovulation. But they contend their religious freedom rights would be violated if they are required to cover four specific forms of birth control — implanted devices such as intrauterine devices (known as IUDs) a contraceptive rod implanted in a woman’s arm and two forms of emergency contraception commonly called “morning after pills.”

They say those four methods are abortifacient because, in the words of Hobby Lobby President Steve Green “We believe life begins at conception.” In their view, fertilization, conception and pregnancy are synonymous.

The federal government and major medical voices, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, disagree.

“A pregnancy exists once a fertilized embryo has implanted in the uterus. Prior to that implantation, we do not have a viable pregnancy,”  said Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Barbara S. Levy, MD photo courtesy of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Barbara S. Levy, MD, photo courtesy of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Levy’s group argues that emergency contraception “cannot prevent implantation of a fertilized egg,” and that it is “not effective after implantation; therefore, it is not an abortifacient.”

Drugs such as RU-486 or methotrexate combined with misoprostol were designed specifically to bring a medical end to a pregnancy and are clearly abortifacient. But those are not contraceptives, Levy said, and they’re not included in the mandate.

Levy contends that her group’s definition of pregnancy, established in 1970, “ is scientific. By the time I was in medical school, it was crystal clear to all of us.”

Public policy has been shaped accordingly.

The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion and public health data, points out that federal regulations that block the use of public funds to pay for abortion nonetheless allow funds for “drugs or devices to prevent implantation.” The Department of Health and Human Services’ official definition of pregnancy is “the period of time from implantation until delivery.”

However, some physicians and researchers stand firm on the pre-1970 view that pregnancy begins at the moment of conception, when a sperm unites with an egg. From that perspective, any method that prevents implantation of that fertilized egg (essentially, everything except barrier methods such as condoms) is abortifacient. 

If a woman believes life, conception and pregnancy all begin with the fertilized egg, the ethics of informed consent should require doctors to tell patients about this possibility when patients seek prescriptions for birth control pills or an IUD, said Dr. Joseph Stanford.

Joseph B. Stanford photo courtesy of Steven Leitch.

Joseph B. Stanford photo courtesy of Steven Leitch.

Stanford, a professor in family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah, is co-author on two research studies on  “post-fertilization implantation” and informed consent.

He prefers to avoid both rhetorical battles. “People define conception and pregnancy different ways and no one can say definitively what is or isn’t so,” said Stanford.

So when he deals with patients, he inquires about their beliefs on when life begins and explains all the possible ways — including blocking implantation — that birth control could work. If they still want pills or an IUD, he refers them to colleagues.

Stanford is Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no formal statement on contraception, so his decision is personal, he said:  “I am not willing to prescribe anything that may, even some of the time, prevent the further development of a human embryo.”

John Di Camillo, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said any artificial birth control method — from condoms to pills or devices — deprives a husband and wife of the full meaning of sexual intercourse. Both the act and the intention — to be fully open to each other — are meaningful, he said.

“If you prevent implantation of a life, that is, essentially, an abortion,” he said. “Even if it is only in a tiny percentage of cases, it still has moral weight.”


  • Larry

    There is still no rational argument against contraception.

    It is entirely rooted in religious (and very sectarian minded) concepts of women’s roles in society and very out of touch notions concerning families which serve no useful end.

    There is no compelling reason why our laws should have to take any of these ideas into account.

    Religious liberty does not allow one to compel others to adhere to your religious views. It does not make a difference whether one is actively forcing others or by denial of access to goods and services. Just because you oppose something (perfectly legal) on religious grounds, doesn’t mean you have a right to harm the rights of others in service of that belief.

    If Hobby Lobby doesn’t like the idea of funding contraception, they should outsource their insurance to a company which will. If doctors do not want to prescribe contraceptives to patients they should be giving referrals to ones who do. [at their expense]

  • Frank

    Everyone has the freedom and choice to use the birth control of their choice and pay for it.

  • Greg

    This is not a “religious view” in the least (ask the grassroots group Secular Pro-Life), and this conception (pun intended) is one of the greatest successes of the pro-choice lobby (helped by idiotic behavior by many pro-lifers). It’s really about whether a human being, distinct by its own DNA, is acknowledged as a human being regardless of whether it can implant in the womb or not. It’s as arbitrary a distinction as saying an African slave in the 1830s isn’t really human because he’s not capable of being educated. Well, of course, if you treat him like chattel and deny him an education, he can’t be educated. America seems to be on an inexorable path to granting rights and dignity to groups long discriminated against, feared, or ignored, and I don’t see why preborn children won’t be among them in a couple decades.

  • Caitlin

    Implantation isn’t arbitrary, and your analogy is a Straw Man argument. Without implantation, the fertilized egg cannot develop. If every fertilized egg were a life and the implantation in a uterus was arbitrary, then there would be no use for women.

  • gilhcan

    The solution is simple. If your don’t “believe” in contraception, don’t use it. But others, whether they are church leaders or business owners, have no right to inflict their so-called moral standards on others. As for the science of “life” from the moment of conception, the are scientifically illiterate. They are distorting their religious beliefs into a pseudo-science. They need to be asked, “What is life?”

  • gilhcan

    I would say you need not ask anyone, just decide for yourself after you have studied, learned, and given the subject some mature, literate thought. Do not let others, especially “religious” people dictate science to you. I fully support abortion–to a point, unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the pregnant woman. But aborting a non-threatening pregnancy can and should be determined as soon as the pregnancy is discovered. Even 20 weeks, as some are suggesting, is unnecessarily late, except when it’s a threat to the life of the pregnant woman.

  • gilhcan

    When birth control is part for health care, it should be included in health care insurance programs. How is it determined that contraception is related to health? Don’t rely on doctors. Everyone knows how doctors recklessly and illegitimately authorize handicapped parking facilities. Then you see people hang up their handicapped parking passes in the windshield of their cars and rush out to the stores. “This parking space reserved for fetuses!” I have seen parking lots that reserve spaces for “expectant mothers.”

    So why not contraceptives for health care, all health care. Health care is a much broader issue than just sickness and death. There are also mental health, family health, and economic health. In other words, church leaders with their dictatorial biblical faith ought to mind their own business. And business owners who are too stingy to pay decent remuneration to their workers and fake religious principles to avoid providing health insurance should stop lying..

  • BmoreSara

    If opponents of abortion were truly committed to a drastic reduction in the number of fetuses that are destroyed, then promoting the use of effective contraception would be a critical plank in their agenda.

    I believe abortion opponents refrain from including effective birth control as an important part of their message for two reasons:

    1. Contraception prevents the fetus from being created in the first place. “Preventing pregnancy” just doesn’t feel as heroic and virtuous as “saving babies.” In other words, abortion opponents get more emotional gratification (and more funding) when their message is about babies who were conceived and may not get born. Not as many warm fuzzies about preventing theoretical babies from being conceived.

    2. Abortion opponents’ desire to change sexual behavior is equal to their desire to prevent the destruction of fetuses.

    Whatever they might say, saving fetuses is not the single, overriding desire of abortion opponents. If it were, they would talk about contraception more than anyone else.

  • John

    It always fascinates me that religious people get vilified over being pro-life as if we are committing some crime against humanity and personal rights. You know, ethics (more broadly including philosophy and religious viewpoints) are a valid part of this argument. Science, meaning a medical analysis of the process in this case, does not automatically inform the subsequent decision to be made. At that point, ethics becomes the determinant as to whether we ‘should’ do what we ‘can’ do. So, whose ethics will it be? We will not all agree, but maligning and discounting the religious viewpoint in the debate as being of no account is unwarranted. How far public policy goes on giving exceptions to individuals and corporations is the issue here, and that will get more difficult in our pluralistic and increasingly non-religious culture. Religion will have a place at the table which you may continue to ridicule, which is what too many prefer to do anyway and this just becomes the latest means.

  • Frank

    Family planning is not health care. Its a choice a family makes and a family should be responsible for. Very simple. If you want brith control of your choice, you pay for it.

  • Frank

    Ironic that’s its people who are trying to force their so called morality onto corporations by forcing them to pay for something their beliefs are against. It cuts both ways. But hypocrites don’t like to admit that.

  • Frank

    The illogic of the illogical. Classic example.

  • Larry

    Secular pro-life groups make up such an insignificant part of the discussion that they are largely ignored by both the pro-choice people and the anti-abortion people.

    Their existence does not make the arguments made rational nor dispel the overwhelming religious nature of those proposed. Secular does not equal atheist except to theocratic minded people. Pro-life does not equal anti-contraception except for those with religious arguments.

    Its really about making decisions for other people based on spurious, self-aggrandizing irrational reasons. That someone who claims some form of perceived moral authority can make personal, private, intimate decisions for others.

    Your argument for pre-born rights is complete nonsense. Unlike any born human being, rights can’t be granted to a fetus without attacking the rights of the woman bearing it. No other form of existence has such a zero sum game for its rights and autonomy. Bad analogy is the key to an irrational argument such as yours.

    The whole abortifacient argument is based on the phony notion that there are degrees of opposition to contraception. In reality you either oppose it or not. It is really just a sham distinction to mask what is really complete opposition to the subject. Splitting hairs more for the sake of appearing reasonable than actually being reasonable.

  • Larry

    They ARE paying for it with their insurance benefits provided as compensation for working for said employers.

    Insurance is a form of compensation as much as a paycheck and subject to the same level of input by an employer as to how it is used (none at all).

  • Larry

    Your opinion on the subject does not make it so.

    Family planning is heath care to the people who bear the entire physical burden of giving birth and require medical intervention to receive contraceptives.

  • Larry

    Anti-abortion people get vilified because their arguments show a complete lack of respect for the private choices of others. Opposing something does not mean you have a right or duty to deny it to others or coerce people into accepting your views.

    Their argument is entirely about maligning people who do not accept the notion of abstinence as the only form of family planning or that a fetus is to be protected at the expense of all other reasonable considerations. Shaming tactics, deliberate ignoring of the woman’s role, and holier than though narcissism informs the anti-abortion platform.

  • Frank

    Neither does yours. It’s not health care its a choice. Pay for it yourself if you want it. Quite simple. Condoms are usually free by the way. No excuse.

  • Frank

    And the company should be able to choose what they provide. If people don’t like it they can find another employer. Quite simple.

    Family planning is not health care no matter how many times people try to convince others it is.

  • Larry

    They ARE paying for it themselves. With the compensation earned by working for the employer in the form of health coverage.

    You fail to realize that contraception being discussed is the type used by women requires medical expertise to be provided. All medical care outside of emergency treatment is a choice. It does not mean its not healthcare.

    Of course by implication you are saying that contraception is only for men to choose. Women’s interest in such things are to be ignored.

  • Larry

    No they shouldn’t. Employers have enough coercive power over their workers as it is.

    Insurance involves setting minimum government regulated standards. Your argument would allow JW employers to not cover transfusions or Christian Scientists to forgo health insurance entirely. Reasonable standards imposed by government are a necessity here.

    Besides it is none of the business of an employer as to how compensation is used outside of the workplace. Family planning involves medical expertise and addresses medical issues such as pregnancy. Its healthcare.

  • Micaiah

    Larry, it’s not about making decisions for other people. It’s about protecting human beings equally. In our culture, killing an innocent human being is wrong. Abortion kills an innocent human being.

    And parents do have a legal responsibility to their children. They can’t abuse or neglect or kill them once they’re outside the womb – even if caring for that child may be inconvenient. So, why is it ok inside the womb?

  • Ken

    Can anyone tell me where I can find a Bible verse that says that life begins at conception? I have been unable to find one.

  • Larry

    None of this has anything to do with contraception except to the religious who equate contraception irrationally to abortion (even though one prevents the other).

    You can’t protect a fetus without attacking the mother in some way. So no its not about equality in any sense. A fetus is given priority over the sole person whose will keeps it alive and bears all of the physical burdens of doing so. So obviously some life is considered, others are not.

    Of course you have to distinguish between “innocent” and “not “innocent because one gets treated with consideration while the other gets attacked, denigrated and ignored.

    It is telling that in order to support your view you have to resort to shaming tactics and insulting women who chose abortion as lacking “innocence” or responsibility. All talk of “responsibility” is merely a narcissistic way of saying that your claim of moral high ground gives you the right to make decisions for someone else.

    You don’t like that a woman has the option to decide to keep a fetus alive so you think you have a right to make such a decision for her. Never mind it is a personal, intimate decision not subject to your moral judgment or anyone else. Just because you don’t like if a woman has an abortion out of “convenience” doesn’t mean its a decision you have any right to chime in.

  • Frank

    Family planning is not healthcare no matter how many times people say it is. Its a choice not a necessity. People should be thankful they have a job at all. Many don’t.

    Condoms are usually free so they are accessible to everyone.

  • Larry

    So in other words you are just too ignorant to know what women use for contraception. Gotcha. Its all just condoms to you

  • EricaH

    This needs clarification:

    “They say those four methods are abortifacient because, in the words of Hobby Lobby President Steve Green ‘We believe life begins at conception.’ In their view, fertilization, conception, and pregnancy are synonymous.

    “The federal government and major medical voices, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, disagree.”

    The ACOG and AMA don’t “disagree” with Green. They’re looking at a different questions. The medical groups are saying when pregnancy begins. Green is saying when he believes life begins. These are different questions and the answers aren’t necessarily in conflict.

  • EricaH

    Whether a religious belief is rational doesn’t matter when it comes to the First Amendment. One could argue that no religious beliefs are purely rational. Should we not protect any of them?

    You’re right that no one has the right to compel others to observe their religious beliefs or doctrine. But the owner of Hobby Lobby is not doing that. He’s just saying he doesn’t want to have to provide his employees with something his faith objects to. He’s not saying they can’t buy contraceptives with their own money. Despite what you say, there is no right to have someone else pay for your contraception.

    How does one “outsource” insurance? I’ve yet to meet the insurance company that will provide insurance for an employer and not demand that the employer pay for the insurance. At the end of the day, the employer is still paying for the insurance for his/her employees.

  • EricaH

    They’re not “paying for it themselves.” Health insurance is part of a compensation package provided by the employer.

  • EricaH

    You don’t seem to understand that no one’s religious beliefs are being forced on anyone else. The owner of Hobby Lobby isn’t saying “you can’t work for me if you use contraception” he’s just saying “I’m shouldn’t have to pay for it.” They can still buy it one their own.

    How far would you take the “if you don’t believe in it, then don’t use it but don’t object if I force you to buy it for other people” argument? How about abortion? How about recreational drugs and alcohol? How about paying for massages?

  • EricaH

    Contraception has never been more talked about today, yet we still have very high abortion rates. There seems to be a disconnect.

  • EricaH

    There isn’t one. But the Bible isn’t a science textbook either and shouldn’t be read like one.

  • EricaH

    You’re right that insurance is part of a compensation package, which are normally worked out between an employer and an employee. But in this case, it’s not. The government has stepped in and said “you must include this in your compensation to your employees.” That’s what some people object to because that “this” in this instance, violates their religious beliefs.

    The employee no more earned that extra benefit than did an employee who just saw their wages get increased by $100 an hour because the government mandated a huge wage increase.

  • Frank

    I know about all the options regarding birth control. Condoms are free. If you want to use something else pay for it. Simple.

    If there is a medical condition that some brith control treats then it should be covered however if its for family planning then the responsibility to pay for it is on the family. Simple.

  • Frank

    Science tell us that human life begins at conception.

  • BmoreSara

    Talking about contraception is not the same as promoting its use. I don’t see abortion opponents promoting contraception as a means to avoid the destruction of fetuses.

  • BmoreSara

    Do you care to elaborate on my failures of logic?

  • James Burke

    Arguing over conception and implantation is not the issue. The issue is can the Federal or any government force a company’s owners to violate their religious beliefs? Hobby Lobby and Catholics have forever believed
    Life begins at conception. Typical of the dishonest arguments we get the famous “what does is mean” type responses. I think all honest people know what conception is and what that word means.

  • Larry

    Actually when dealing with the government, all laws have to be rational and with a secular purpose as to not be considered Establishment of religion (see “The Lemon Test”). Having a religious belief that something is wrong does not mean our laws have to treat it as such. If one can’t make a rational argument to support why the laws (and other people) must bend to your beliefs, there is no reason why it they should.

    Having a sincere belief is not enough. If it were human sacrifice could be considered legal. This is especially true when dealing with the rights of people besides yourself. Hobby Lobby is choosing to deny their employees something they would be entitled to under the law. That by its nature is coercion.

    Just because your religion forbids something it does not mean you have a right to deny others access to it. Right of free exercise of religion is not an excuse to make one a law unto themselves. It is not a right which trumps all other notions of rule of law.

    You are wrong about Hobby Lobby’s activities. As much as you want to reframe the discussion as if they were an individual, they are not. The current owner’s religious beliefs cannot be used to represent a company as a whole. There is no such thing as corporate religion.

    They want to control something belonging to the employees. They are using their power as employers to impose a religious-based irrational penalty on the employees by refusing to comply with laws concerning minimum healthcare coverage. They have no business making such decisions. Healthcare benefits belong to the employees as their compensation.

    Insurance is a field where the consumers only have a limited level of control over the product they purchase (policies). They don’t ever get to determine what constitutes the minimum level of coverage acceptable by law. That is always determined by government regulation. Hobby Lobby wants to avoid following the law and to penalize their employees and have no rational reason for doing so.

    How does one outsource “insurance”, use an outside insurance provider to write the insurance policies for employees. (Hobby Lobby is self-insured). If Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to get involved in directly funding contraception, then use an outside insurance company and respect the privacy of the employees.

  • Larry

    It is not merely “provided”, it is a form of payment for work performed.
    Which means it belongs to the employees as if it were part of their paycheck. It belongs to the employee. The employee is paying for it.

  • Larry

    You don’t understand how insurance works.

    It is never a total contract between the insurer and insured. Government ALWAYS has a role in insurance. They set minimum standards of coverage, they determine what kind of provisions in any policy are permitted or not. Every state has a government office for setting such policies which all insurance companies must adhere to in order to function.

    Health benefits are never “worked out” between employee and employer. They are purchased from an insurance company as group policies covering the workplace or part of a group self-insurance policy. The economy of scale for blanket (or tiered) policies making it cheaper than underwriting individual policies per employee. There is no real negotiation possible between employee and employer in this regard.

    That being said, religious beliefs are no excuse to get around this. There is no such thing as corporate religious beliefs. An employee should not be compelled to adhere to the religious beliefs of employers.

  • EricaH

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear. Contraception has never been more promoted and made freely available than it is today yet we still have high abortion rates. There seems to be a disconnect.

  • EricaH

    You should leave rationality out of it. Laws don’t have to be rational in order to be constitutional. We could mandate that all insurance cover five gumdrops a day and it would be constitutional, but irrational.

    But yes, laws must be secular in nature. You can’t pass a law requiring everyone to attend church on Sunday or give federal money to churches to buy prayer books. But you also can’t pass laws that inhibit people’s ability to live out their faith. Obviously there are limits. As you point out, if my faith required human sacrifice then it wouldn’t take precedence over someone else’s human right to life. But the Constitutional right to practice one’s religion takes precedence over non-constitutionally supported entitlements (I’m not arguing the ACA is unconstitutional, just that there is no constitutional right to contraception provided by your employer’s health insurance plan).

    Again, no one is being denied access to contraception. It’s available in stores all over the place. No one is being forced to work for any particular employer either. Employers aren’t telling their employees they can’t spend their money on it or threatening to fire them if they use it. They’re just saying they don’t want to pay for it as part of their insurance plan because doing so violates his faith.

    Even if an employer purchases insurance from an insurance company rather than self-insuring the employer is still paying for it.

  • EricaH

    Yes, it’s a form of payment, but each individual aspect of the coverage within the health insurance is not something the employee owns or has paid for. That is up for change at any time and there’s nothing the employee can point to to say “I earned that specific aspect of health insurance and you owe it to me” unless there’s some contractual agreement agreed upon before hand.

  • Frank

    Your first sentence so completely misses the point that the rest falls apart.

  • Frank

    The point is if you don’t want a child don’t created one instead of doing whatever you want and then killing the life you created because its not convenient or comfortable.

    The selfishness is astounding.

  • Anton

    Actually, science tells us that the _potential_ for human life begins at conception. Fertilization without implantation happens all the time and only God knows about. Apparently, according to your definitions, God is the biggest abortionist in the history of mankind. Is that really the idea you wish to promote?

  • Larry

    You already left rationality out of the argument. =)

    You are dead wrong. Laws have to be rational to be constitutional!
    The lowest form of Constitutionality review is whether a law has a rational basis to it.

    You can and we have passed laws that limit religious practice where it comes into conflict with mundane non-religious related concerns. Such laws pass muster under the Constitution. You should read Justice Scalia’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) as to how that works out.
    “It is a permissible reading of the [free exercise clause]…to say that if prohibiting the exercise of religion is not the object of the [law] but merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been offended

    ….To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest is ‘compelling’ – permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, ‘to become a law unto himself,’ contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.’ To adopt a true ‘compelling interest’ requirement for laws that affect religious practice would lead towards anarchy.”

    Of course it still doesn’t help that the notion of corporate religious belief is utterly ridiculous. There is no way a business entity can have a religious belief without violating most labor laws and engaging in sectarian discriminatory behavior. Its merely an excuse to avoid following a law which they have no rational basis for violating.

    And as to “nobody is being denied contraception”, that is a flat out lie. The employer is denying contraception which is considered by law an integral part of their health insurance. Reframing the argument doesn’t change the truth of it. Not choosing to pay for something they are otherwise obligated to provide is denying access to it. The employer is saying I am not allowing employees to spend their earned healthcare compensation for contraception, despite the law mandating that you could.

    Just because there are other employers out there it doesn’t mean that they are exempt from laws governing their conduct. As I mentioned earlier, there is no contractual negotiation between employee and employer when it comes to healthcare beyond the mere providing of the health plan. So there is no need to pretend healthcare provisions are somehow protected by a “right to contract”.

    An employer is paying the employee in the form of health coverage. How it is used is none of the employer’s business any more than how a paycheck is spent.

  • Frank

    What a faulty argument. Things don’t happen as they should because we live in a sinful fallen world. So no God does not abort babies. People do.

    And no science tells us human life begins at conception.

  • Larry

    An employer can terminate an insurance policy for an employee but can’t micromanage what are the provisions of coverage outside of some select criteria. Once an employer chooses to fund healthcare, their input is done.

    An employer has no say as to what constitutes basic healthcare coverage at a minimum level. The government can say, X policy given to your employees does not meet the standards all policies must have and cannot be issued.

    I said before healthcare coverage is not subject to contractual agreement between employee and employer. Employee takes the group policy. That’s it. No choices, no negotiation over its provisions. It is negotiated between employer and insurer.

    The policy belongs to the employee. They are the one exercising its provisions. Claims under the policy are considered privileged information of the employee. They are only available to employers under heavy regulation and protections by law.

    “There’s nothing the employee can point to to say “I earned that specific aspect of health insurance and you owe it to me”

    Yes there is, its called the ACA. But also its called mandatory coverages under the insurance regulations.

  • Larry

    The disconnect comes from people like yourself. The doing of people who can’t ban contraception or abortion, but try to deny access to it through various means.

    Such as preventing employment healthcare providers from issuing it, closing down family planning clinics, subjecting patients seeking abortion to intrusive unnecessary medical testing, unnecessary restrictions on clinics performing abortions…

    Frankly the fact that we even have this discussion today shows how much resistance there is to making such things available.

  • Frank

    That’s not true Larry. Companies have different choices and plans that they can offer to their employees. Therefore it is a contractual agreement which the employees can reject by looking for another employer.

  • Duane Lamers

    All laws have to be rational, Larry? Perhaps you’ve noticed that Obamacare is not being judged rational by most people in the country.

    Hobby Lobby is “penalizing” its employees? How do you define “penalizing” outside your a-priori position that Obamacare is legit and that government may extend its power without limits?

  • Duane Lamers

    Why not mandate cable tv as a right for everyone? After all, the choices offered on cable enable one to broaden knowledge and “enjoy” life, which makes one more “healthy” than a life without enjoyment can do.

    I agree that not only church leaders should mind their own business; so should Washington socialists. By the way, who determines “decent” in “decent wages” and “fake” in “fake religious principles”? Just curious because it is the demonstrated habits of liberals to claim for themselves the definition of these terms and to deny any challenge to the definitions.

  • Ken

    I learned that human life begins when God breathes a soul into a lump of clay. Until quickening, the cells are no more human than a puppy dog.

  • Jessica

    Okay, here we go. Is it okay to force a man to give a kidney to his son against his will? Let me rephrase: Let’s say your son needs a kidney to live, and you are a donor match. Is it okay for the government/hospital/doctors, etc. to force you to give him one of your kidneys? What if you don’t want to give him one for whatever reason? Should someone force you to enter a surgical procedure when it’s against your will? Defend your answer.

  • Larry

    I have noticed many people are not using rational arguments against Obamacare. =)

    Its funny how both you and EricaH are both essentially admitting you don’t have rational arguments to make on this subject.

    Yes, laws have to have a rational basis. Its the bare minimum level of scrutiny the Supreme Court has to give a law to see whether it should remain on the books.

    I define penalizing as withholding access to people of something they are entitled to under the law for your own personal selfish reasons. Applying coercive power how others can use their earned compensation healthcare coverage is penalizing them.

    You betray the true motives at play here. The religious freedom argument is obviously hogwash. You don’t even bother to discuss it.

    All we are really talking about is a general attack on the ACA. I have every right to take a priori that the ACA is legitimate law. It is on the books already and it is a law whose constitutionality was already discussed and argued by the Supreme Court. You are trying to re-argue a battle which was already lost.

  • barbara

    I agree. I also don’t see a problem with insurance companies paying for birth control for women in much the same way they pay for vasectomies (as most policies do) and erectile disfunction (yeah right!) drugs like viagra for men (as paid by almost all policies). To insert religion in this discussion is ridiculous whether you are talking about insurance or the sale of goats.

  • Larry

    So how does paying for healthcare compare to violating personal autonomy, health and safety? It doesn’t. The government always has a hand in regulating insurance provisions.

    Your argument is better employed as one against abortion bans. That the government has no business controlling how one makes decisions concerning their body.

    A better analogy is that in lieu of paychecks, an Islamic employer issues special debit cards which can’t be used used to buy pork products, alcohol or renting movies starring Kirk Cameron.

  • barbara

    Duane we already mandated cable TV for everyone when the broadband system was installed nationwide about 4-5 years ago. Now everyone needs a black box of some sort to access even local TV channels.

  • Larry

    Frank, the employers are still limited by what goes into those various plans. All of the plans have to pass muster with the Insurance Department of the state in order to be issued. All have to meet statutory minimum standard provisions.

    You can always opt for greater coverage, but you can’t choose less than the minimum.

  • Larry

    At this point even the people supporting Hobby Lobby here have given up the religious freedom arguments. They know such reasons are pure bullcrap.

    Now they are just pretending that withholding something from employees which is legally mandated is not penalizing them and that an employer can have any reason to violate laws which control their conduct.

  • barbara

    the 2nd paragraph of the article is the kicker folks — ”

    A fundamental legal question in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is whether corporations, like individuals, have a right to religious speech. Hobby Lobby is owned by devout evangelical Christians who say they should not be forced to provide contraception services that they find immoral.”

    So today it is birth control, maybe tomorrow it is viagra or vasectomies, mammagrams or pap smears, treatment for heart diseases caused by obesity ….. whatever the case, if this corporation is allowed “speech” as citizens united decision indicates, then what is next on the social agenda of the next fringe group?

    This is much bigger than whether Sally can get her birth control covered under her employer’s policy. And it goes to the heart of choice and freedom.

  • Larry

    Hobby Lobby is saying that they can violate laws for ridiculous reasons in order to create burdens on employees in obtaining something they should easier have access to. Why should employees of Hobby Lobby have to pay out of pocket for such things when the law states that insurance coverage must?

    The fact that they are using religious reasons is especially ridiculous. Opposing something on religious reasons does not grant one the right to deny others to it.

    Employers are forced to do many things on behalf of their employers which they don’t like. Like keep safe workplaces, take responsibility for negligent employees, pay people in usable currency, not to discriminate. If they don’t want such burdens, don’t run a company.

  • Larry

    The issue is whether an employer can force employees to adhere to a religious belief. The religious freedom argument is a non-starter. A business entity has no religious identity. Only individuals do. One does not have a right to enforce religious beliefs on others against their will. Least of all in the workplace.

    Using your argument a “Christian Identity” employer can willfully ignore anti-discrimination laws because their religious belief forbids treating African Americans with human dignity.

  • Frank

    I guess that’s part of whats at stake. Whats considered to be part of the minimum. Birth control doesn’t seem like it should apply. Seems like an add in to me.

  • Anton

    Things often don’t happen as they should because the processes of egg and sperm production are not perfect and chromosomal anomalies or faulty biochemistry sometimes make implantation impossible. Think of it as God’s way to weed out human suffering before it happens, if you must. You should be so magnanimous.

    Without implantation human life is not possible – period. You propose that biological reality is a faulty argument and then try to make God’s will your own with some crazy notion of original sin. How the heck do you know what God thinks? You have lost all sense.

  • BmoreSara

    I’m not sure I agree. I don’t believe contraception is promoted very widely. Abortion opponents have the resources and the know-how to drastically reduce the rate of abortion, if they chose to re-direct their energies toward the prevention of unwanted pregnancy. The fact that they choose not to do so, suggests to me that the emotional appeal of “saving babies” and the desire to constrain sexual behavior to formats that they consider acceptable combine to outweigh any real desire to reduce the number of abortions.

    But I’d like to hear more about your position. I take it you believe that further (and better!) promotion of contraception would do nothing to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy. In other words, you would be in favor of reducing the incidence of unwanted pregnancy if it were possible, you just don’t believe it’s possible. Do I have that right?

  • Anton

    . . . as good as any other creation myth, I suppose.

  • BmoreSara


    With this statement, you and I seem to be on the same wavelength: Let’s prevent unwanted pregnancy. Then abortion becomes a non-issue.

    We seriously need the resources (brains, energy, money) of the abortion opponents applied to the prevention of unwanted pregnancy. Focusing on abortion is like closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted.

  • Anton

    The definition of when life begins IS a significant part of the issue. Religious people do not get to make up their own facts and then use those “facts” to discriminate against others. And simply repeating “life begins at conception”, ad nauseum, does not make it so. Please explain to me how a pre-implantation embryo is any different than a tumor.

    In addition, the federal government forces me to violate my beliefs all the time. Why should religious beliefs get special treatment? RFRA and RLUIPA need to go. They are clearly discriminatory. In addition, nobody forced the Greens to incorporate a for-profit company and nobody is forcing them to pay for anything. They can close up shop today if they wish.

  • Frank

    I am glad Sarah but while we work on this innocent unborn children are killed by the thousands daily. This is unacceptable.

  • Frank

    Yes and the reason our biology doesn’t work perfectly is because we live in a sinful fallen world. Everything g is broken.

  • Frank

    Everyone has the freedom to choose what family planning method they want to use and pay for it. Simple.

  • Caitlin


    Nuh uh!

  • Caitlin

    So, women can’t have contraceptives other than condoms, which are only free in the male form, but they have to try extra hard to not get pregnant, hope that they aren’t abandoned by the men that they tango’d with, and then allow the potentially unwanted child to use their body like an incubator because you say that abortion is selfish and medication used as contraception is not healthcare and shouldn’t be covered.

    Your high minded morality is surprising.

    The fact that you’re male is not.

  • Caitlin

    And how that person medically chooses to medically keep from becoming pregnant should be covered under their health insurance. They see their healthcare provider to obtain the prescription. That makes it a question of healthcare. Why make this more difficult than it should be?

  • Frank

    Yeah she is clueless right? Thanks!

  • Frank

    Caitlin I suppose if women are powerless your scenario might be true.

  • Frank

    Exactly! Why is this more difficult than it needs to be? Family planning is a choice not a medical necessity therefore the choice is the families responsibility. Very simple.

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  • devin

    What of the times that an abortion is preventing bringing a child into a neglectful situation? What of the times that a woman knows that she isn’t strong enough to stop doing drugs for the full gestation period? What of the times that an addict finds out she is pregnant 18 weeks in? What of the times that a parent finds their fetus has life-threatening abnormalities? What of the times when a woman is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy? What of the times a woman gets pregnant knowing that she is too unhealthy or has sustained too much damage to carry to full term? Is she to wait until her life is in immediate danger? What of the times that an abusive man purposely gets his wife pregnant? Is she to knowingly bring a child into an abusive situation with no hope of that abusive husband ever signing the papers needed to give that child away? Sometimes, ending a pregnancy is a parenting decision…the right parenting decision. Other people’s religious views don’t change that. Imposing those views on everyone only takes away their autonomy to make the right decision.

  • devin

    I do not agree with your statement, Frank. Family planning relates to healthcare in the way that choosing to experience or not experience a pregnancy has a big impact on a woman’s health. My body is very good at getting pregnant and not so good at carrying to full term. I’ve had seven pregnancies and have only one child. Each and every miscarriage I have experienced has affected my overall health greatly…which in turn affects my capabilities as a mother to the child I have. You are right in the fact that we can all pay for the type of birth control we choose to use, but have you ever looked in to how much BC costs for a person that doesn’t have insurance coverage for it? We are being price gouged. Insurance companies pay less for BC than the average person does, just like most medical anything. I believe that BC, in all forms, should be covered by HEALTH insurance because it is a HEALTH issue and different women in different situations require different kinds of BC. Some people have allergies that prevent the use of condoms. Some people have hormonal issues that prevent the use of an every day BC. Not to mention that long term use of every day BC causes breast cancer, fertility issues, and fetal health issues. Having said that, I don’t think that the govt should be capable of forcing this issue. I think that the people who are rightfully in control of this situation should see how shortsighted their religious views have made them. Insuring all forms of BC gives people affordable access to potentially life saving meds..the opposition denies affordable access to these potentially life saving meds.

  • Shae

    Do what you want Larry, just leave me out of it.