Lamm: Hobby Lobby boycott
The Hobby Lobby Store in Glendale is less than 5 miles from my house. Because it is convenient and stocked full of items feeding my thirst for craft projects with grandkids, I have been a regular customer for over a decade.
It’s not that I resent Hobby Lobby’s Christian orientation, that its national chain of 560 stores are closed Sundays, or even the claim by its founder David Green that “its true owner is God.” What I do resent is its suit now before the U.S. Supreme Court which claims that, as a “tightly held” family business with Evangelical Christian convictions, it should not have to abide by the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that it provide two “objectionable” methods of contraception to its female employees.
These methods are emergency contraception (or Plan B) and various intrauterine devices, which Hobby Lobby owners consider “abortifacients.” As a longtime pro-choice advocate, I am 100 percent for a woman’s right to control her fertility in any way she can. And such exemptions in an insurance plan are truly discriminatory against women, since everything included in the ACA is available to men for their sexual health (including Viagra).
Emergency contraception is of particular time-limited urgency to a female who is the victim of rape or who has engaged in unprotected sex, because it can only eliminate the possibility of pregnancy if taken within five days after intercourse.
Forty percent of unintended pregnancies will end in abortions — that’s slightly over 1 million abortions a year — certainly a far greater health burden on women than a “morning after” pill. And one would think these 1 million-plus abortions also would be more of a “burden” on Hobby Lobby’s “conscience” than the pill.
In addition, the elimination of the intrauterine device option could prevent women from obtaining the most effective contraceptive method — 45 percent more effective in preventing pregnancy than the birth control pill and 95 percent more effective than the condom.
Unfortunately, the IUD is also the most expensive method, costing from $500 to $1,000.
It is true that under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the court has granted exemptions or “accommodations” to non-profit religious institutions from contraceptive mandates that violate their beliefs. However, whether or not that can apply to a secular for-profit corporation brings on a whole new ball game.
One of the “truths” Hobby Lobby has to prove to win this game is that its “tightly held” family corporation is a “person” with a conscience and that this conscience will be violated by anything it considers an abortifacient. Unfortunately, there is precedent for this tenet. In the 2010 Citizens United case, the court ruled that the corporation is a “person” and, therefore, denial of its right to give unlimited political contributions to candidates would be tantamount to denying free speech rights to an individual.
A second “truth” that Hobby Lobby must prove is that the exemption of the two contraceptive methods would not violate the public health or the public good. Unsurprisingly, in the hearings, the justices divided sharply by gender. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan literally peppered the plaintiffs’ attorneys on the public health implications.
Would the right to restrict this particular public health “good” lead to the denial of other rights and benefits on conscience grounds — for example, the proven public benefit of immunizations? What is Hobby Lobby’s “conscience,” anyway? On April 1, Mother Jones and Forbes revealed that this family company actually invests a good part of its retirement funds in drug companies that manufacture the same devices it denies to the women it employs. Will this hypocrisy weigh against the “conscience” arguments with the justices?
I hope so. A decision is expected in June.
Dottie Lamm (dolamm59@gmail. com), former first lady of Colorado, is a women’s rights activist.