by Betsy McCaughey
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that if you like your God, you can keep your God. Meaning you can freely exercise your religion without government interference.
But the Obama administration insists that all health plans, including those provided by religious employers, cover contraception, sterilization and morning-after pills.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a case that the Democratic Party is falsely calling a test for women’s rights.
Nineteen U.S. senators and 91 members of the House, all Democrats, filed briefs supporting Obama’s legal war against Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of craft stores providing health insurance to all employees but refusing for religious reasons to cover morning-after pills, such as Plan B and Ella.
Sen. Patty Murray claims, “What’s at stake in this case before the Supreme Court is whether a CEO’s personal beliefs can trump a woman’s right to access free or low-cost contraception under the Affordable Care Act.”
Nonsense. Not one word in the Affordable Care Act guarantees health plans will cover birth-control products. There is no such “right.”
Section 2713 of the law says insurers must cover whatever service the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force rates an A or B. It also empowers the Health and Human Services secretary – a presidential appointee – to add others.
While the Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t call for covering birth control, President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insist that plans cover it. The next occupant of the White House could do the opposite.
So these court battles are not about what Murray incorrectly calls a “right.” Women have a constitutionally protected right to use birth control, but not to get it at work. And access is a trumped-up issue – a straw woman.
The expensive part of getting birth control is visiting the gynecologist for a prescription, and all health plans – including Hobby Lobby’s – cover that. The Hobby Lobby battle is over who pays the cost of the morning-after pill – a mere $35. That’s less than the cost of a haircut and blow dry, a carton of 128-count Pampers or dinner for two at Applebee’s.
Poor women can get help with birth-control products through Medicaid, federal community health clinics and Planned Parenthood. So this battle is not about access.
It’s political. Obama’s Justice Department argues that saving women a small fee ($35 for the Ella pill) outweighs honoring a business owner’s religious views. But the First Amendment bars government from “prohibiting the free exercise of religion.”
This means freedom not only to worship, but also to live and run your business according to your faith. Dozens of religious employers have filed lawsuits challenging the Obama administration’s mandate. Hobby Lobby is the most watched Supreme Court case this term.
The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores, incorporated their business, and that technicality is giving the Obama administration a leg up before the court. It’s one thing to argue that individuals have the freedom to worship, but harder to argue that corporations do.
Yet in this case, the Greens run their businesses according to Biblical principles. They close on Sundays, forgo hauling beer, even when their trucks have to run empty, and refuse to provide morning-after pills. That devotion to religion conflicts with the president’s political agenda.
Gender equality is Obama’s hobbyhorse for the 2014 elections. The Democrats’ legal briefs argue that women generally have higher out-of-pocket health costs than men because of birth control.
Their remedy is to compel employers to provide “free” birth control, no matter the harm to an employer’s religious freedom. Respecting religious freedom vs. $35 for a “free” morning-after pill. Expect the Supremes to rule religious freedom is worth more than that.
by Betsy McCaughey