Memo|Social Issues   3 Minute Read

Talking to the Middle about Hobby Lobby

Published June 30, 2014

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Today, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell, striking down the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for closely-held corporations. That means that if a closely-held corporation chooses to provide health insurance for its employees instead of paying the tax penalty, it cannot be required to include coverage for birth control in that insurance plan if doing so goes against the owner’s religious beliefs. Over 90% of businesses in the U.S. are considered “closely-held.” Here are some things to emphasize when talking to Americans in the middle about this case: 

  • The Court did not strike down the contraceptive coverage mandate as a whole. It gave some for-profit employers (those who run closely-held corporations) a means to get out of the mandate’s requirement if providing their employees with health care that covers contraception violates their religious beliefs. 
  • This case had nothing to do with churches or religious organizations—no matter how the Court ruled, houses of worship and religious institutions would still be exempted and religiously-affiliated non-profit organizations would continue to have an accommodation.
    • Religious institutions like churches and synagogues have always been exempt from complying with the contraceptive requirement.
    • Non-profit organizations could already opt out of contraception coverage through an accommodation established by the Obama Administration. All they needed to do was fill out a form certifying that they 1) are organized as a non-profit, 2) hold themselves out as a religious organization, and 3) have a religious objection to contraception. Then they would not be required to include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans—instead the insurance companies would reach out directly to their employees to find out whether they would like to obtain contraceptives, and if so, would provide that service directly and without co-payment. 
  • Before the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement went into effect, 90% of employer health insurance plans already covered contraception without complaint—including those offered by the Hobby Lobby company.1  
  • Twenty-eight states require health insurance plans to cover contraception if they cover any prescription drugs—including purple and red states like North Carolina, Arkansas, and West Virginia. None of those requirements are disrupted by this decision, which only applies to federal law.
  • Both the pro-life and pro-choice communities should be disappointed by this decision. Access to birth control is the best way to reduce abortion—and no-cost contraception has been shown to decrease abortion rates by up to 78%.2 The public agrees: 79% of Americans say anti-abortion policymakers should support contraception because it decreases unplanned pregnancies—including 71% of Republicans and 80% of Independents.3 
  • Never before has the Supreme Court allowed an employer to shift the burden and the cost of his own religious exercise onto his employees. Doing so now is out of touch with the needs of American women and the views of the country: 
    • 99% of sexually active American women have used contraception at some point in their lives;4  
    • 95% of Americans—including 92% of Republicans—consider use of contraception to be a form of personal responsibility;5 
    • 89% of Americans believe using birth control is morally acceptable;6  
    • 58% of women currently using birth control actually cite health reasons other than pregnancy prevention;7  and,
    • 57% of Americans think that privately held corporations should be required to provide their employees with health insurance plans that cover contraception without a co-pay—including 64% of white mainline Protestants, 56% of Independents, 72% of African-Americans, and 60% with a high school education or less.8  
  • Despite what some claim, birth control is not always easily accessible—and for many women, without the ACA’s coverage requirement, it is cost prohibitive. Thirty-four percent of women report struggling to afford birth control at some point in their lives, and 55% of young women—who are most at risk of unintended pregnancy—have experienced a time when they were unable to use birth control consistently because of the cost.9 
  • The Obama Administration can ensure that no woman is left without access to preventive care. If her CEO uses his personal beliefs to justify denying her access to contraceptive coverage, a woman should still be able to get birth control without a co-payment through the insurance company itself—similar to how the accommodation for non-profits already works.
 
  1. “Contraceptive Use in the United States,” Fact Sheet, The Guttmacher Institute, June 20014. Accessed June 30, 2014. Available at: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html.

  2. “Access to Free Birth Control Reduces Abortion Rates,” Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Winter 2013. Accessed June 30, 2014. Available at: http://medschool.wustl.edu/news/patient_care/Contraceptive_Choice.

  3. Sam Baker, “Poll Finds Broad Support for Contraception Access,” The Hill, October 22, 2012.Accessed June 30, 2014. Available at: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/abortion/263335-poll-finds-broad-support-for-contraception-access.

     

  4. Contraceptive Use in the United States.”

  5.  Baker.

  6. Frank Newport, “Americans, Including Catholics, Say Birth Control Is Morally OK,” Gallup, May 22, 2012. Accessed June 30, 2014. Available at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154799/americans-including-catholics-say-birth-control-morally.aspx.

  7. “Contraceptive Use in the United States.”

     

  8. “Support for the ACA’s Employer Contraception Coverage Mandate," Graph of the Week, Public Religion Research Institute, June 2, 2014. Accessed June 30, 2014. Available at: http://publicreligion.org/research/graphic-of-the-week/employer-contraception/

  9. “Planned Parenthood Kicks Off Effort to Demonstrate Support for Covering All FDA-approved Prescription Contraception Under New Health Insurance Plans, with No Co-pay or Out-of-Pocket Costs to Women,” National News, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, May 14, 2014. Accessed June 30, 2014. Available at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/survey-nearly-three-four-voters-america-support-fully-covering-prescription-birth-control/.

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