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Birth control is not a religious issue; it is a basic health-care issue

Since birth control became legal and widely available, women’s health has improved dramatically; the infant death rate has plummeted; and women have been able to invest in their education and careers.

Birth control has been legal in the United States since 1965, and 99 percent of sexually active women have used it. It has had such a dramatic impact on women and families in this country that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named it one of the top 10 public-health achievements of the past century. Yet, somehow, it is being challenged in our nation’s highest court.

Sarah Stoesz
Sarah Stoesz

Today (March 25) the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius and Conestoga Woods vs. Sebelius, which will decide if your boss’s religious beliefs can trump your access to birth control.

When Obamacare became law, 46 corporations filed suit (including seven companies in Minnesota) claiming their religious beliefs were being violated because their employee health plans were required to cover birth control, without a co-pay, under the Affordable Care Act.

Latest salvo in coordinated attack

This case is about a lot of things. But at its core, it’s the latest salvo in a coordinated attack by the conservative right to allow discrimination in the name of religion. Last month, until Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it, it was legislation that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve members of Arizona’s LGBT community. Last year, in North Dakota, it was an attempt to change the state constitution so that any individual or company could claim personal religious beliefs in order to break important laws, like laws against abuse and discrimination.   

This time, access to birth control is on the chopping block – even though it’s been legal for nearly 50 years and its health benefits have been recognized by the CDC.

At Planned Parenthood, birth control is what we do all day, every day. Every year we have hundreds of thousands of conversations with women to help find the right birth-control method for them. This is not a religious issue – it’s a basic health-care issue. Since birth control became legal and widely available, women’s health has improved dramatically; the infant death rate has plummeted; and women have been able to invest in their education and careers. Not to mention that increasing access to birth control significantly reduces unintended pregnancy, which in turn reduces the abortion rate.

Could set frightening precedent

If the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby, it will set a frightening precedent. For example, a company could refuse to pay for blood transfusions, HIV medications, vaccinations or any number of medically necessary services in the name of religion.

We need to call these latest efforts what they are: attempts to erode the decades of progress this country has made in protecting the freedoms and rights of all people. At the end of the day, one simple fact remains: Your boss should not be able to weigh in on your most intimate and personal medical decisions. Period.

Sarah Stoesz is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.


If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at

Comments (77)

  1. Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/25/2014 - 12:36 pm.

    What about less mainstream religious objections to healthcare?

    I understand that a religious opposition to birth control is somewhat mainstream in the United States and thus some people feel that it should have special exceptions in law. What about those people that are religiously opposed to medical intervention of any kind? You know, those people we hear about in the news whose children die of preventable illnesses. What if someone with that religious belief is also an employer. Would their religious opposition to any medical care exempt them from providing any of their employees with any insurance at all? What is the difference in these two situations other than the number of people that hold that particular religious opposition to medical care? I have also often wondered why the catholic church isn’t also opposed to covering prostate exams. My understanding of a prostate exam is that it causes orgasm in a male, which means sperm is expelled and not for the purposes of procreation. I would love it if someone could answer my questions.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/25/2014 - 06:42 pm.

      Your understanding

      of what’s involved in a prostate exam is incorrect. I have had several and I can assure you that sexual arousal is not the outcome. Not even close.

    • Submitted by James Miller on 03/26/2014 - 09:55 am.

      Prostate Exam

      I’ve had several, and believe, arousal is about the farthest thought from my mind.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/26/2014 - 01:36 pm.

      Religious opposition to medical care

      No employer is required to offer any kind of medical insurance to his or er employees. Employers with fewer than 50 employees (about 96% of all employers ,according to the Treasury Department) may refrain from offering any coverage and do not have to pay under the employer responsibility requirements.

      I will add my concurrence with the comments of Messrs. Tester and Miller regarding prostate exams.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/25/2014 - 01:27 pm.

    Your access to birth control

    is as close as the corner drugstore. The actions of your employer have nothing to do with that fact.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/26/2014 - 01:09 pm.

      Except that IUDs, which you cannot get at your corner drugstore, are 40 times more effective than the pill and 90 times more effective than condoms… and can only be implanted by a medical professional.

  3. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 03/25/2014 - 03:00 pm.

    The boss won’t be able to weigh in on your “intimate and personal medical decisions” anymore than he or she did prior to 2014. What will be different is that the boss won’t be forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs for you for free. You will buy your own birth control or maybe your sex partner can pay for half, just as you did before.

    • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/25/2014 - 04:16 pm.

      Arbortion inducing?

      Abortion inducing in an awfully strong word for a method of birth control that simply prevents a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine lining. Unless we are now referring to the two cells that make up a fertilized egg as a fetus. It sounds like you are totally okay with an employer being able to refuse certain kinds of healthcare to their employees based on their religion. What about my original post about different religious objections to different kinds of healthcare? If an employer is religiously opposed to any healthcare at all are they then exempted from providing their employees with health insurance? After all we wouldn’t want to force employers to go against what they believe to be the will of god. Or is it just okay with you for employers to deny healthcare that you personally disagree with? How about this, if someone is religiously opposed to providing healthcare to their employees, they stop being employers. They can go get a regular job where they aren’t required to violate their religious beliefs.

  4. Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/25/2014 - 04:12 pm.

    An interesting double standard by our conservative friends…

    considering that between 2006 and 2011 Medicare spent $172 Million on mechanical erectile dysfunction solutions. Why wouldn’t a bunch of old men be against that?

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/25/2014 - 06:49 pm.

      Why would you think

      conservatives would defend that? If that is the case, I would oppose it. If an old man needed such “treatment,” let him pay for it himself.

      • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/26/2014 - 07:20 am.

        Dennis, you are missing the point…

        Where is the conservative outcry, Dennis? This was in the news, why has some old man chairing a committee not taken it up?

        • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 08:06 am.


          Brian, you may have missed this but there has been mockery of the Viagra addition in conservative media circles for many, many years.

  5. Submitted by Bruce Young on 03/26/2014 - 12:19 am.

    Your rights end at someone else’s wallet

    Rights exist independent from anyone else being required to pay for your ability to exercise the right. There is no right to birth control that forces me or any employer to pay for it. If you believe your employer is required to buy your birth control in order for the right to exist, then I believe your employer is required to buy you a gun so you can exercise your 2nd amendment rights!

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 03/26/2014 - 01:51 pm.

      My religious beliefs do not allow,

      for any purpose whatsoever, the intentional cutting or piercing of the skin. As an employer, I should have the right not to pay for such medical procedures that include something that goes against this belief. No injections, no blood draws, no testing equipment for diabetics, no surgeries.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 03/26/2014 - 03:33 pm.

      Your “religious freedom”

      ends at the tip of your own nose.

  6. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 03/26/2014 - 03:20 pm.

    birth control vs abortifacients

    The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are not Catholics. They are Southern Baptists and Mennonite respectively. They have no problem with birth control. Hobby Lobby, for example, already pays for coverage for 16 types of birth control. It is the abortifacients on the list of drugs they are required to cover by Obamacare that are the problem for them.
    According to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the government must show a compelling reason to burden someone’s religious beliefs. Abortifacients are easy to get. There’s no compelling reason someone else is required to make them free for their employees.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 03/26/2014 - 04:51 pm.

      Other than the fact

      that’s it’s none of their business and their religious freedom doesn’t extend to foisting it on anyone else that doesn’t share it.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/26/2014 - 05:29 pm.

      Not quite

      You may want to read the RFRA yourself, instead of relying on what conservative websites tell you.

      The law creates a two-part test. The first part says that “[g]overnment shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The question is not whether there is “any” conflict with an individual’s religious beliefs, it’s whether there is a “substantial” conflict. Since Hobby Lobby already covers some contraception in their employee insurance coverage, they have to show why enrolling their employes in a plan that covers contraception is a substantial burden. Remember, Hobby Lobby does not have to provide coverage for its employees. The standards for plans apply only if they want the tax advantages of enrolling them in a conforming plan.

      If the first part of the test is met, the government has to show that the law is in “furtherance of a compelling government interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

      I would also ask what “abortifacients” are required to be covered by the ACA.

  7. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 03/26/2014 - 04:46 pm.

    This is all really confusing

    Corporations can not have religious beliefs unless you want to argue that legal paperwork creates souls. A corporation is by definition a secular institution. Even a corporation founded by people with strong religious beliefs is still a secular institution.

  8. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/26/2014 - 05:11 pm.

    This is what happens

    when you allow the government to control your health care. They’re able to control everything else about you too, including what your religious beliefs should be, apparently.

  9. Submitted by Frank Bowden on 03/26/2014 - 06:31 pm.

    Sorry, Dennis

    This (meaning the Hobby Lobby crowd) is what happens when conservatives want corporations to have control over your healthcare. Progressives want everyone to have access to high quality health care. Health care decisions should be made between individuals and their doctors. How anyone professing to be a conservative can argue with a straight face that some other entity should be able to intrude on our personal medical decisions is beyond me. I am surprised that no one has brought up the fact that doctors sometimes prescribe “birth control” for other reasons than simply to prevent a women from having a child. Individual health issues are quite specific to one’s own health situation. In spite of the forty-year Republican effort to demonize government, Americans will eventually realize that the heavy weight of corporate power arguably poses a greater threat to their right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 08:11 am.

      Conservatives and Corporations

      I don’t know how anyone with a straight face can claim that conservatives want corporations to have control over your healthcare. Dennis has written several times that he’d rather people pay for their own birth control choices and leave their employers out of it. That’s been the tenor of other conservative commentary as well. This wasn’t an issue at all until progressives decided that birth control should be paid for by employers. *That* is what changed the issue. It wasn’t anything that conservatives or corporations did.

  10. Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 08:30 am.

    Everyone who is totally okay with emplyers denying birth control

    to their employees needs to answer this question. If denying birth control to your employees is an employers right, is it then an employers right to deny other health care to their employees? I understand you guys believe that birth control is easy to get and that it is a very cheap and simple thing to aquire (It isn’t. Some women cannot take hormonal birth control and therefore require non-hormonal methods such as an IUD which is expensive and must be inserted by a medical professional). The legal principle that I want to discuss is any employers right to refuse any health care to their employers based on whatever religious beliefs the CEO may hold.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 01:23 pm.


      I’m perfectly fine with the idea that health care should be separated from your employer. My employer doesn’t pay for my car or home insurance. There is no special reason that health insurance should flow through your job. Yes, this would be messy but the current process of loading more and more things on to the employer is just a horrible idea.

      Fiona, what percentage of women are unable to take hormonal birth control? When we talk about the number of women that are much better served with an IUD, what number are we talking about? I honestly don’t know and some quick Googling didn’t help me out. Any hard numbers would be helpful here.

      • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 02:50 pm.

        Does it matter?

        Does it matter how many women need which birth control and for what reason? What would we do with that information? What if the reason a woman chooses a more expensive form a birth control is simply because it is more effective? Would have some sort of “test” that would be applied if a woman wants to have a birth control method her employer disapproves of? How many women would be consulted when this “test” is developed. We are the ones that are best equipped to make decisions about our bodies. Not our employers.

        I agree that health insurance being tied to jobs is ridiculous. Especially if the health care I can get is now dependent on my employers religious beliefs.

        • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 04:14 pm.

          Of Course It Matters!

          Yes, of course it matters! The policy implications are much different if we’re talking about 10 women or 10 million. It also matters how many companies are truly seeking these exemptions. If we’re talking about a small number of women and a small number of jobs that won’t provide them the coverage they need, then we should encourage those women to find other jobs. If both numbers are large, then the math changes and we get into the compelling national interest territory.
          I know that you’re interested in the Platonic policy here and that’s a worthy question. Lots of people have to look for specific jobs because of unusual needs in their personal life. I need some reason to understand why that can’t work here.

          • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 04:51 pm.

            Minorities have rights too

            I believe that if even one woman is prevented from making decisions about her OWN body by her employer that is one too many.

            How about if an employer is religiously opposed to following the laws that our country expects employers to follow they get a different job? No one is forcing them to employ people. They can go cashier at target and feel at peace with their god.

            • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 06:53 pm.


              Yes, minorities do have rights. That includes religious minorities. That’s the point of the act at the heart of this controversy.
              I full out disagree with you that any woman is being prevented from making decisions about her OWN body. At worst she is being prevented from having those decisions be paid for by her employer. To me, that’s not a civil right. You don’t want employers making decisions about birth control? Then stop mandating that they PAY for it.

              • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 10:05 pm.

                Which is more important?

                I disagree that religious freedom trumps the rights of female employees to health care. Why is their religious freedom more important than my reproductive freedom? Furthermore, why does their religion need to imposed on me? How far does religious freedom extend into my body? Can they point out the scripture verse that says “don’t pay for IUDs or the morning after pill”? I still don’t understand why they can’t just go get a cashier job that doesn’t require them to violate their religion. If they need to avoid eternal damnation by not ever paying for these two kinds of birth control then they should just get a different job. I hear eternal damnation is a pretty big deal.

                To be clear, I would prefer that my employer have nothing whatsoever to do with my healthcare. I am not mandating that anyone pay for anything, this was the law of the land. These people want to deny one segment of the population (that I happen to be a part of) one type of essential health care (that I happen to need) and I am not okay with that. This is because it significantly disadvantages anyone with a functioning uterus either in the job market or financially. I count this as denying me the health care that I need because since I spent so much money on my insurance premiums, I don’t also have the extra money to then pay for prescription that I need.

                I also pay for my health insurance. I pay lots of money for my health insurance. My employer also pays some money. We both give this money to an insurance provider and then me and my doctor decide what medicine I should have and the insurance company pays for it. How is an employer giving money to an insurance program that covers birth control that they don’t like any different from the same person paying medicare taxes that also pay for this birth control? They give some money to an entity and then that entity pays for whatever health care women need. Medicare covers all of these kinds of birth control and these people are not refusing to pay their medicare taxes.

          • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 07:51 pm.

            One more

            issue that I have with your idea about women finding employers that cover their birth control is this. This decision means that, until other cases of religious opposition to healthcare come up, only women of childbearing age have to worry about their employers religious beliefs affecting their healthcare. The only reason their bosses religion affects them is because they are women. So every woman between the ages of 13 and 35 has to somehow find out what the CEO of any given company believes about what they should and should not be allowed to do with their uterus. While everyone else in society gets to just get jobs, go to the doctor and get medicine. How is this not going to negatively impact my ability to get and keep jobs just because of the body I was born with?

            • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 10:29 pm.

              Things Happen

              I don’t want to sound too cold here, but people face difficult decisions all of the time. Not to be too personal but I had to quit a job about ten years ago after an accident in which I acquired a handicap. We don’t live in a utopia where everything comes easy.
              Fortunately, this one can be overcome. An IUD can be purchased outside of health coverage. From what I can tell the price is between $500 and $1000 (but it lasts for years). That’s a decent chunk of cash, sure. But what about the person whose car breaks and they have to buy a used one. That’s more than an IUD and we wouldn’t expect the employer to pay for that.
              Some people are in bad situations and they’ll have to ask more questions when looking for a job. Finding out what kind of health coverage a company offers is a pretty typical question. Some people will need to find out if a certain hospital or doctor is covered. Or they might have children with problems and need more schedule flexibility than is normal. This is life.

              • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/28/2014 - 08:50 pm.

                I can see you are not going to change your mind about this. The most compelling evidence I have for this belief is that you have not acknowledged many of my strongest points during this debate. I cannot help but wonder if your opinion would be the same if it was healthcare that you needed that these people were religiously opposed to.

                The truth of the matter is this is not just an isolated legal case. This is the newest way that the religious right is trying to control women’s reproduction. The same group of people who filed this suit belong to many organizations who believe that their god wants them to monitor what goes on in my uterus. They have been working to deny women reproductive choice since Roe V. Wade. While you may have your opinion I act on mine. I organize, write and march based on my belief that no one’s religion should ever intrude on my body. I and women like me will not stand for this and if you’re opposed to this I will look forward to seeing you at counter protests.

                Beliefs do not have rights, only people have rights. Religious freedom means that religious people do not have to use forms of birth control they believe are wrong. It does not mean they may prevent me from using those same forms of birth control.

                • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/29/2014 - 03:19 pm.


                  Fiona, I don’t believe that anyone here *is* being prevented from using birth control. Show me that someone is and we can move on that phase of the argument.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/27/2014 - 10:28 am.

    The problem is our supreme court

    Regardless of religious concerns no one in the US is supposed to be able to impose their religious beliefs on any other person. That includes employers. It is for instance against the law for even a private employer to require a religious test to qualify for employment. These employers are basically arguing that they have the right in impose their religious practice on their employees.

    Medical care is private, the employer has absolutely no right to review or access an employees medical records or obtain any information about treatment. Yet these employers want to dictate medical practice.

    Furthermore, yeah, what if an employer decides they don’t believe in medication for erectile disfunction or vaccines? If you let employers decide what treatments they will and will not pay for it’s worse than letting insurance companies dictate medical practice.

    This is a no-brainer but the problem is we have a supreme court that’s gone off the rails. These guys have demonstrated a tendency to just make stuff up when it suite them. So all bets are off.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/27/2014 - 12:06 pm.

      The problem with the Supreme Court on this case

      is that Elena Kagan is allowed to participate in the ruling when she worked on Obamacare when she was part of the Obama administration. She should be required to recuse herself from this case. That she hasn’t not only speaks volumes about her lack of integrity, but of the press’ bias for not even mentioning it.

      This wouldn’t even be an issue if employers weren’t being forced to carry insurance policies that mandate coverage in areas that used to be optional. To solve these types of cases we need to get the government out of the health care business.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 03/27/2014 - 12:40 pm.

        Oh, but you were just fine

        with Clarence Thomas refusing to recuse himself while his wife actively opposed the ACA, going as far as earning a living off of it. Does that “speak volumes” about his lack of integrity too?

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/27/2014 - 02:54 pm.

          His wife

          wasn’t deciding the case. Her husband was.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 03/27/2014 - 04:43 pm.

            Sure Dennis….

            I’m sure Thomas would never let his wife’s activities possibly influence his opinion on the case. It’s not like they would ever discuss it, right? So much for those “conservative principles” you’re always bragging about.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/29/2014 - 12:16 pm.

              Conservative values

              Justice Thomas’s wife is making a lot of money from her activities. There’s your true conservative value.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/27/2014 - 04:06 pm.


          When Thomas’s son represented Bush in Bush V. Gore on the Florida vote count fiasco.

      • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 03/27/2014 - 12:45 pm.

        I disagree…

        We need to remove employers from the equation. The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction. It unfortunately does not go far enough.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/27/2014 - 01:30 pm.

        Justice Kagan did not “work on Obamacare.” The Solicitor General is not involved with the legislative agenda of the President, although she defends it in court.

        Considering the lax attitude towards ethics on the Supreme Court (yes, Justice Thomas, and you, Justice Scalia), especially regarding political activities, this is no big deal.

  12. Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 11:05 am.

    Where are all the women?

    I would also like to point out that the vast majority of commentators here are male. How much do men really know about women’s health? Here’s your answer: less than women. I was misinformed about prostate exams, probably because I do not have a prostate and will thus never have it examined. How would you like it if I was the one making policy decisions about your prostate? How much does your average man know about the different types of birth control, the different costs, the different side effects, the different reasons women might need to take them. I’m willing to bet that I am the only woman of childbearing age who is on this forum.

    If my employer is able to decide what birth control I have access to then I have to be careful who I work for because only certain kinds of birth control work for me without unpleasant side effects. When do I ask a prospective employer about their religious beliefs as they pertain to my body? In the interview? I should just go get it myself you say? I work full time and cannot afford how much my birth control costs. Would you be okay paying money for health insurance that doesn’t cover an expensive prescription that you need each month?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/27/2014 - 12:13 pm.

      Exactly, where are all the women?

      Your rights have been chipped away for over three decades and now you’re facing a supreme court that may well turn every woman of child bearing age in the country into a second class citizen with no right to privacy. In Texas they’ve already decided that a fertilized egg is a person, thus turning pregnant women into incubators. So yeah, where are all the women, and where have they been? And more importantly: is it too late?

      • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 03:05 pm.

        It’s never too late

        I don’t know where all the women are. I know many of us have been shamed for our role in childbearing. If you need birth control, you should just close your legs. If you get pregnant you’re an idiot for not using birth control, even though many forms of birth control are less effective than we think. If you have the baby you’re a drain on the system who shouldn’t have children. If you get an abortion you’re a baby killer who should close her legs. If you fight for access to birth control you are infringing on the rights of others to deny you birth control. If you have lots of children you are a brood sow. We can’t win. But, I was just at a meeting last night made up of women who demand that the health insurance we pay for cover our health care needs. We’re out there and we’re not going to give up control over our bodies.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/27/2014 - 12:30 pm.

      Excellent point

      I would note that the groups most vocally opposed to contraception and artificial birth control–the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant denominations–are controlled by men.

  13. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 01:36 pm.

    Religious Objections

    Of course this is a religious issue. I don’t view IUD use or the ‘morning after’ pill as the same type of thing as abortion but obviously some people do. Try and stretch your mind and use some empathy for people with other views and maybe you can glimpse that too. (If it helps, pretend that the mandate is to provide guns and gun training. Plenty of people on the left have quasi-religious objections to gun use.)
    It’s not a surprise that a high ranking official of Planned Parenthood doesn’t see that point of view but that doesn’t mean that other people can’t understand.
    Right now this is a small number of companies and a small number of products that are under discussion. Is there really no other way to get IUDs to the small number of women that need them than to force a handful of employers to violate their conscience in order to pay for them? Were things so terrible a few years ago before this was added to the employer mandates?

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 03/27/2014 - 03:14 pm.

      Then don’t offer Medical Insurance

      Pay your fine and move on. Really, it’s not that difficult.

      The company is helping to pay for medical insurance, but medical decisions are confidential ‘transactions’ between the patient and the doctor. The company has no right to know whether or not its employees are doing something that goes against the religious beliefs of the company (as if a business can have religious beliefs). The company may not, in fact, have any employees who would ask for such medical care.

    • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 03:22 pm.

      This is a problem because

      if employers are allowed to decide what health care their employees can get based on the CEOs religious beliefs, what’s so say that someone doesn’t have a religious belief that effects you and your healthcare next? The problem is the legal precedent this sets.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 04:17 pm.

        What Precedent?

        I’ve seen vaccines mentioned but that seems to be a bad example. Due to the number of people involved to create ‘herd immunity’ there is a clear national interest in vaccines. This is completely different. Can you find a different practice that actually has been challenged on religious grounds please?

        • Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/27/2014 - 05:00 pm.

          So you are okay with this discrimination

          this time. This is just the first case like this. People that aren’t you are being denied medicine that they want with the insurance they pay for doesn’t bother you. Suppose a Mormon, who is religiously opposed to ingesting caffeine decides that they don’t want to cover many migraine medications that include caffeine? Suppose a successful stem cell treatment for alzheimers or dementia is found and some employers refuse to cover that on religious grounds? Just because this doesn’t affect you and it does affect me doesn’t mean it’s okay. My boss’s religion should never have any effect on my health care and neither should yours.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/27/2014 - 03:28 pm.

      Tolerance for inaccuracy

      All well and good, but you are overlooking the fact that the term “abortion” being thrown about without regard to its accuracy. It’s being done to muddy the issue.

      The medical definition of an abortion is the expulsion of a fetus or embryo. IUDs prevent fertilization–in other words, there is no embryo. Morning after pills (more accurately and less judgmentally called “emergency contraception”) prevent or inhibit ovulation. Again, there is no embryo to expel.

      “Viewing” an IUD or emergency contraception as abortion is just wrong, and it is complicity in a lie. Why is there any reason to be “tolerant” of that?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/27/2014 - 04:11 pm.

      Your religion is irrelevant

      It’s your religion, not your employees. You want to have a business, you want make money, in some cases that means you provide health insurance. That no more gives you the right to dictate your employees medical care than paying taxes gives you the right ignore laws you don’t like or agree with. What goes on between an employee and their Dr. is none of your business.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/27/2014 - 04:22 pm.

        Shut up and do it!

        So if the State, in it’s wisdom, piles more mandates on your existing company, you should just shut up and join the program, right? Man, it’s like there isn’t even an attempt to understand what a religious exemption means.

        RB, regarding the definition of an abortion, you can argue it out with them. They obviously believe that disrupting implantation is meaningful and are willing to fight against it. (Feel free to correct me if I have the science wrong here.) It isn’t important that you agree with them in how they define things.

        • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/27/2014 - 04:43 pm.

          On defintions

          You can’t argue against a set definition. Well, you could, but it would be pretty stupid. I mean, would you ‘argue’ that the definition of a tonsillectomy is variable?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/27/2014 - 04:56 pm.

          Yes, it is important

          The opponents of mandated contraceptive coverage are throwing around “abortion” as a way to fleece teh rubes. Once the “A” word is thrown out, there can be no rational discussion–you’re either against it, or you favor infanticide. The strong opposition to artificial birth control is not there yet, so the smoke screen of abortion is raised.

          I’m not prepared to overlook a lie.

          • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/28/2014 - 09:47 am.


            Opponents of the RFRA are throwing around terms like ‘birth control’ as if companies are stepping in and forbidding employees to use it. That seems like at least as much of a lie to me. Before the publicity blew up on this case I thought that Hobby Lobby refused to pay for any birth control at all. It was later that I learned that they were willing to pay for 16 out of 20 options. The burden then is much smaller than I’d thought.
            This very title of this article suggests that the entire category of birth control is under attack. It starts by saying that 99% of women have used birth control but never tells us what percentage would be effected here. Is that honest?

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/28/2014 - 01:51 pm.

              Oh, no! Both sides do it!

              Your invocation of the tired “both sides” canard would be relevant only if I had said “and no one who opposes Hobby Lobby’s stance as ever done the same thing.” It would also be relevant if I were defending the choice of words in the title of this article.

              In any event: Hobby Lobby–whose loudly espoused Christian values (Matthew 6:5) allow them to buy most of their inventory from China–say they oppose contraception “that might cause abortion.” Emergency contraception does not “cause abortion.” They are making up an excuse, but one can see why. Emergency contraception is apt to be used outside the context of marriage. How much of their stance comes from that notion, one must wonder?

              • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/29/2014 - 03:36 pm.

                Lies and Definitions

                RB, the thing is, there are two different standards to the different bits of information. It doesn’t matter how factual the religious beliefs are for business owners. For example, I suspect that science could pretty easily disprove the Miracle of Transubstantiation, but churches can still get religious exemptions on alcohol use in dry counties. (Sincerity is a key item, but religious groups have been opposed to the morning after pill and such for much longer than the current insurance controversy. We have every reason to believe that they are sincere in this belief.)
                On the other hand, suggesting that this is an attack on birth control, without noting just how small the number of items, is dishonest. If you were to simply see some headlines about the case, you’d think that Hobby Lobby won’t employ anyone who uses any birth control at all. If you read the article, you’d think that the birth control that 99% of all women use, is set to be outlawed. Even if you go far enough to see that this is a conversation only about who pays for birth control, at no point would you find out what is actually going on. A small group of companies is contesting that they shouldn’t pay for a small group of birth control methods that their employees might want to use.
                That’s dishonest and it’s a much more important dishonesty than whether or not some religious groups think a device that impairs implantation conflicts with their notion of morality.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/28/2014 - 09:34 am.

          Religious exemption?

          “So if the State, in it’s wisdom, piles more mandates on your existing company, you should just shut up and join the program, right? Man, it’s like there isn’t even an attempt to understand what a religious exemption means. ”

          Dude, no ones forcing you to use contraception, if you don’t want to use it… don’t. THAT’s what religious exemption means. Religious exemption DOES NOT mean you have the right to impose your religious beliefs on your employees. You do not have the right to step into your employees Dr.’s office and dictate medical practice based on your religious beliefs.

          Some religions don’t believe in any medical care at all, that doesn’t mean they get to go into business and deny health care to their employees. Business is a public enterprise, religion is your business, if you want to do business you have to play by the rules like everyone else… a business is not a church or a place of worship.

          • Submitted by Todd Adler on 03/28/2014 - 12:11 pm.

            Will You Marry Me?

            Birth control is like gay marriage: if you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get gay married. It’s that simple.

            Ironically, 99% of women use birth control at some point in their lives. That means the mothers, wives, and daughters of the very people who want to limit access have most likely used birth control already. Do the business owners hate their wives for taking birth control? Do their wives simply not tell them? Or are they taking the stance of “do what I say, not what I do”? No matter how you slice it, it doesn’t make sense.

            And need I remind people that corporations are not people? Corporations do not have religious beliefs anymore than they have morals. As such, they have no right to impose something they do not possess onto other people.

            Now people, on the other hand, can and do carry religious beliefs. But as another poster mentioned earlier, religious beliefs carry only so far as the end of your nose. Beyond that, people have no right to impose their restrictions on someone else.

          • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/29/2014 - 03:24 pm.

            Not Understanding

            Religious exemption in this case means not paying for something you think violates your religious conscience. It DOES NOT mean only that you are free or not free to use contraceptives.
            Interestingly enough, if a business owner had religious beliefs that opposed using health care at all, they would have a pretty easy path. They could simply decide to pay the fine and be done with it. The owners of Hobby Lobby believe that they should treat their employees well and one of the ways they do that is with good insurance. (And yes, I think you can have very fine insurance and still not cover IUD.)

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/30/2014 - 02:42 pm.

              Not understanding

              You are overlooking the point that the Court’;s opinion in this case will have implications far beyond the question of whether Hobby Lobby has to pay for all forms of contraception mandated by the ACA. In the short term, it means Catholic Charities or any business run by a Roman Catholic could refuse to provide insurance coverage for any form of contraception, even for non-Catholic employees. In effect, a win for Hobby Lobby would turn the RFRA into a free pass from any law, if a person can make a religious exemption to it. A member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod could balk at hiring or providing services to Roman Catholics and claim a religious exemption from it. Atheists or agnostics could be denied employment or accommodation because of a religious doctrine.

              That was not the purpose of the RFRA, but if Hobby Lobby’s reading prevails, that will be the likely outcome. They are just a bunch of fanatics selling airplane glue, but the implications of what they are doing are far greater than that.

              • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/31/2014 - 08:41 am.

                Slippery Slopes

                RB, I think you’re misreading the statute involved There have been slippery slope concerns around religious exemption cases from the beginning. There were concerns that if a small group could use peyote for spiritual reasons, then it must be legalized for everyone. That obviously hasn’t happened.
                The solution is pretty clever (at least to my mind). The justice system is allowed to look at the overall picture and make decisions based on how disruptive that particular remedy is. Which means in this case they will look not at what happens when every employer everywhere suddenly makes a patchwork of religious decisions, but what will happen if a small number of companies cross off a small number of birth control methods.
                If the Lutherans wanted to deny service to non-Lutherans (strange example) then the court would almost certainly step in and say that violated regular discrimination statutes. Those have been upheld in the past. There is a small exemption in that churches can hire on ideological basis but they can’t bar others from attending their services.
                The RFRA passed about twenty years ago and it *hasn’t* led to terrible slippery slope consequences. There is a reason for that.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/31/2014 - 09:06 am.

                  The reason for that

                  The reason that the RFRA–a law I have always thought was a good one–has not been given the expansive reading that Hobby Lobby is advancing. As the law has been read, a person will be exempt from a a law of general application if they can show a ‘substantial” burden. If the standard becomes any burden, or if too much deference is given to a plaintiff’s claim of “substantial burden,” the law does become a free pass for all manner of practices (polygamy would no longer be a crime for LDS members).

                  As the law has been read since its enactment, the disruptiveness of a particular remedy is an issue only if a substantial burden is proven.

                  • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/31/2014 - 12:18 pm.


                    Ok, we’re coming closer to some sort of agreement. The ‘substantial burden’ part is also a clever one. I’m in agreement that that the standard can’t be just any burden or the law would quickly spin out of control. This is necessarily pretty subjective though.
                    We’ll see what the Supremes have to say in this case. The coverage that I’ve read seems to suggest that they’re more likely to agree with Hobby Lobby than to rule against them. If that happens, it will be because they thought that this was more of a burden than you seem to.

  14. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/27/2014 - 06:43 pm.

    As Mr. Krauthammer once said

    When did we start treating pregnancy as a disease?

  15. Submitted by Thomas Burt on 04/01/2014 - 01:28 am.

    Just my opinion

    I ‘m of the belief this has all been over thought and over examined. My thought is a simple one. If the birth control method is in the form of a pill. Make it so it is prescribed by a Dr. and picked up from the Pharmacy. Make it so it falls under the co-pay of most medical RX insurance plans. If it is a procedure ie…. an implant ( done at medical facility) should still be coved by insurance. But, instead of the company or insurance paying 100% have the usual co-pay. Be it 20/80 or until deductable is met for annual medical bill.
    Just because this is written into the insurance coverage plan does not meen everybody is going to run out and have a it done. That’s like saying just because my insurance plan covers X amount if I get cance, I’ll run out and get it.
    I for one do not see this as a Religious issue. It is an individual preference.

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