Obama’s Hobbyhorse: Gender Equality
On Jan. 28, 19 U.S. senators and 91 members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, filed briefs with the Supreme Court supporting the Obama administration’s legal war against Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of craft stores providing health insurance to employees but refusing to cover morning-after pills, such as Plan B and Ella, for religious reasons.
Sen. Patty Murray claims, “What’s 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 contraception under the Affordable Care Act.”
Nonsense. Not one word in the Affordable Care Act guarantees health plans will cover birth-control products. There is no such right. Section 2713 of the law says insurers must cover whatever services the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force rates an A or B. It also empowers the Health and Human Services secretary – a presidential appointee – to add others. The Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t call for covering birth control.
It’s President Barack Obama and his HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who insist on plans covering it. The next occupant of the White House could do the opposite. So this court battle isn’t about what 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 128-count Pampers, or dinner for two at Applebee’s. It’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 products through Medicaid, federal community health clinics and Planned Parenthood.
So this battle is not about access.
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.” This means the freedom to not only worship but also live and run your business according to the teachings of your faith.
This is why a federal appeals court ruled against Obama in favor of David Green and his wife, the owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores. They try to run their businesses according to Biblical principles. They close on Sundays, forgo hauling beer, even when their trucks have to run empty, and refuse to provide morning-after pills.
After the lower court ruled in support of the Greens, The New York Times called the court’s decision “a warped view” because “some employers can get out of complying with the new law … “
Not with the law. With the Obama administration’s regulation.
The Obama administration’s take-no-prisoners stance against the Greens and other religious employers is part of a political strategy to convince the public that the Democratic Party is the champion of victimized women. Gender equality is Obama’s hobbyhorse for the 2014 elections. Obama gave us a preview during his State of the Union address last Tuesday, cynically boasting that Obamacare bars insurers from charging women higher premiums than they charge him.
Cynical, because women consume more health care. How horrible is it to charge them more? Prohibiting this simply shifts costs to men.
The Democrats’ legal briefs argue that women generally have higher out-of-pocket health costs than men because of birth control. They say it’s unfair, and their remedy is to compel employers to provide “free” birth control, no matter the harm to an employer’s religious freedom.
Respecting religious freedom versus $35 for a “free” morning after pill. Expect the supremes to rule religious freedom is worth more than that.