SCOTUS has ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. I have seen primarily two types of reactions. On the one hand are my friends who see this as good news, a sort of mandate that will open the door to challenging all sorts of parts of the ACA. On the other hand are my friends who are disappointed with the Court’s decision this morning.
To all my friends, no matter your take on today’s ruling, I offer the following thoughts:
- This is a very narrow decision applying only to closely held corporations. A closely held corporation is a corporation where less than 5 individuals hold more than half of the shares. They are private companies and are not publicly held.
- This decision leaves the door open for the government to pick up the slack and pay for contraceptives themselves using tax dollars, including the tax dollars of the owners of Hobby Lobby. Congress could also choose to impose a small tax on large corporations to make up for the coverage. Alito also noted in the majority opinion that employees of these companies could still obtain birth control through an accommodation introduced by President Obama for employees of religiously affiliated nonprofits. This program allows for the insurance companies to provide the coverage while not involving the employer.
- Even though Hobby Lobby has won this battle, it may lead to them losing the broader war. Don’t get me wrong; I think it is only a small step in that direction. In other words, someday when we look back at this decision, we may see that it directly contributed to America eventually adopting a single payer system.
BONUS: I do find it interesting that the court was quick to point out that this decision only applies to the birth control mandate and does not apply to other treatments that raise life and death questions, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions. They also made it clear that the ruling was not a free pass for companies to opt out of any law they consider incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Where do I stand personally on the decision of the court today? I will leave you with the words of a woman far more eloquent and learned than I, The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg who said in her blistering dissent,
“In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent. “