This past week, the arts and crafts business, Hobby Lobby, filed to the Supreme Court asking that its owners be protected from violating their own religious beliefs from contraceptive coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act. So far the government has given exemptions to religious institutions and religious non-profit organizations from requiring health insurance plans to cover FDA approved contraception for free. Hobby Lobby is a family owned Christian company that does not believe in two forms of contraception- the IUD and emergency contraception because they are regarded as methods of abortion. The goal is to obtain exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which prohibits the government from interfering with a person’s individual religious views unless those views compromise government interest. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, stated these for-profit organizations would not quality for exemption based on the owner’s religious beliefs. Still, the United States Supreme Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit stated that corporations and businesses have First Amendment rights to free speech.
Many questions come into play with this case. Can a for-profit company have a religion? Can a company owner refuse to provide health insurance coverage for medications based on their beliefs? If these company owners do get an exemption, how many other company owners would want the exception for their businesses, too? Could employers only oppose certain birth control methods, or could they also object to the company-provided insurance from covering other medical costs if those costs do not meet their religious beliefs? The ruling of this case is projected to conclude sometime this summer.
For larger business and corporations, I believe that the right to have access to free contraceptives through health insurance should not be regulated by religion. But for Hobby Lobby, a business that is closed on Sundays, pays their full time employees 90% above federal minimum wage, and operates their business according to Biblical principles; it would make sense for its owners to not support coverage of abortion-like methods. The problem with appealing against full contraceptive coverage through health insurance affects Hobby Lobby female employees who do not believe in the same religious views against IUDs and emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby owners must think of the health and well-being of their employees first before restricting their health insurance coverage. Also, if other business owners come forward to advocate for the same exemption, the Affordable Care Act would not be as “affordable” as it supposedly suggests. Employees would have to seek other and more expensive ways to obtain certain contraceptives without any help from their health insurance coverage. It is a tough to draw the line between religious perspectives and providing the necessary health care that should be easily accessed. We will just have to wait to see how the conclusion of this case turns out…