When Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration over the requirement that it provide coverage for birth control in its employees’ health insurance plans, the company and religious-right groups billed the lawsuit as a defense of religious freedom. But there are some big problems with that claim — not the least of which is the attempt to redefine religious freedom to mean allowing employers to impose their religious beliefs on the personal decisions their workers make. Let’s look at some of the other problems.
First, opponents of the requirement say they shouldn’t be forced to pay for abortion drugs like Plan B and Ella. But as we have pointed out before, those emergency contraceptives don’t cause abortions, despite how loudly religious-righters repeat the falsehood that they do.
Second, as Mother Jones points out in a new article, Hobby Lobby’s employee insurance actually included coverage for Plan B and Ella until sometime in 2012 — when the company decided to sue the administration over the birth control requirement. Did the company and its owners not have moral objections to those drugs before then?
Finally, as Mother Jones reports in the same article, Hobby Lobby’s employee retirement plan invests $73 million in companies that produce emergency contraception products. So the company has a moral objection to including coverage for those products in its employees’ health insurance but not to investing in companies that make them?
Here is what’s really going on. Hobby Lobby’s case isn’t about religious freedom. It’s about discriminating against women who don’t share their boss’s religious beliefs. It’s about making it harder for women to get access to birth control. It’s about interfering with the right of women to make their own decisions about whether and when to have children. This is nothing new — even some Texas legislators have declared a “war on birth control.”
Hobby Lobby and the right-wing pressure groups that back the company’s lawsuit aren’t really interested in religious freedom as much as they’re interested in control — controlling the personal decisions individuals make about their own lives in accordance with their own deeply held personal beliefs.