Robert Dominic Ventre II
Content EditorSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the controversial lawsuit by Hobby Lobby over objections to providing access to contraception (per the Affordable Care Act), has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments will be presented orally today, March 25th, in the federal courthouse. Per the ACA, large employers are required to provide free contraceptive services to employees at no cost, including emergency contraception, such as Plan B or IUDs, lest they incur steep government fines. However, Hobby Lobby has declared that such a requirement violates their religious beliefs as well as their right to uphold them. Hobby Lobby has stated that its religious views, "prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception." Citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law created in 1993 that demands that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability," the owners of the Hobby Lobby, as well Conestoga Wood Specialties, have contended that being forced to require full contraceptive privileges to employees would be a violation of religious freedom, and cannot therefore be enforced. Courts have been divided over this hot-button issue, with three separate federal appeals courts having struck down the contraception coverage requirement. Other appeals have elected to uphold the requirement as a right of employees. An appearance before the Supreme Court was seen as all but inevitable. "We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by ... and so we cannot be a part of taking life," said Hobby Lobby president Steve Green. Company CEO and founder, David Green, added, "It's our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience," The U.S. government has made it apparent how many Supreme Court case verdicts have ran counter to the Green family's beliefs, pointing out that such reasoning would allow companies to, for example, employee child workers, veto immunization or refuse to serve patrons of differing ethnicities or nationalities. Religious beliefs simply aren't a stable foundation for mandating corporate policy, and General Walter Dellinger, former Clinton administration Solicitor, agrees: "This is an earned benefit, not a freebie. And it's an earned benefit to which women contribute their share of the premium," Dellinger goes on to say, "Here the 13,000 employees of the Hobby Lobby corporate enterprise aren't and should not be expected to share the religious beliefs of the Greens. What you really have is one family attempting to utilize their economic leverage to impose their religious beliefs on others," Former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement will appear in court today on behalf of Hobby Lobby. "The only government action here is the government action that forces the Greens to provide these contraceptive devices that they find morally objectionable," Electing to be dramatic, he continues, "The federal government for the first time has decided that they are going to force one person to pay for another person's not just ... hip replacement, but something as religiously sensitive as contraception and abortifacients." Hobby Lobby has stated that the fines they would suffer for not providing contraceptive services would be a heavy burden on their company, in the amount of $26 million per year for violation of the law. However, their critics have stated that $26 million is currently a much smaller amount than what Hobby Lobby is paying yearly for its current insurance. Clement has also claimed that, "This isn't a case about access to contraception. It's not like the families here are taking action to prevent their employees from getting these devices if they want to do it with their own money and on their own time," The government has countered this claim by pointing out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the wide availability of contraception is a public health "necessity". As the most effective treatments are also the most expensive, studies have shown that one-third of women, if enabled, would choose a different method of contraception over what is currently allowed by their insurance. The government has also declared such an issue to be a matter of gender equality in the workplace, making the issue more contentious than ever. Of course, Hobby Lobby and its representatives have suggested that the government simply front the bill for contraceptive products if they are a dire public need. The government has flatly stated that this is not an answer to the problem; if it were, the government would pay for everything, and employers would be held responsible for nothing. This is not acceptable, and somewhat laughable in concept. As stated by Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro Choice America, contraception is, "integral with our economic security and our ability to hold jobs for our lifetime," The issue grows more complicated and divisive as arguments continue. Anything from the 'war of religion', the 'war on women', to the nature of religious and personal freedoms have come into debate, as government officials, as well as other corporations and public representatives, weigh in on the case. A verdict is expected by this summer.
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