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Birth Control Coverage: Hobby Lobby Decision May Not Be The Last Word

| July 1, 2014

Five men in robes disagree. (Fibonacci Blue)

Five men in robes disagree. (Fibonacci Blue)

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday saying that “closely held corporations” do not have to abide by the contraceptive coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act may not give those firms the ability to stop providing that coverage after all.

More than half the states have “contraceptive equity” laws on the books that require most employers whose health insurance covers prescription drugs to also cover FDA-approved contraceptives as part of that package. Unlike the ACA, those laws do not require that coverage to be available without deductibles or co-pays. Florida does not have such a law.

The court’s decision Mondaydoes not directly affect those state laws, several analysts say.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the court used to say the closely held companies don’t have to abide by the federal mandate, “doesn’t supersede state law,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.  “They stand as independent protections.”

Many of those state laws have religious exceptions similar to the one the Obama administration has granted to nonprofit religious hospitals and universities, but only two,Arizona and Illinois, extend those exceptions more broadly. Two other states, Arkansas and North Carolina, do not require coverage of emergency contraception, which is among the products that were at issue in the Supreme Court case.


Firms like Hobby Lobby, the nationwide arts-and-crafts chain that was the lead plaintiff in Monday’s case, aren’t subject to state insurance laws, because they self-insure their workers and don’t buy state-regulated insurance. Their plans are subject only to federal regulation.

But they are still likely subject to a ruling issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the year 2000 that employers that fail to cover contraception as part of their health insurance benefit package are discriminating against women in violation of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. That law was itself an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

So what happens now? “It depends,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the ACLU.

Employers that don’t want to offer some or full contraceptive coverage could sue to block the state contraceptive laws, “but that would be harder given how long some of those laws have been in effect,” she said.

Meanwhile, others have suggested that female employees of Hobby Lobby or other companies that stop offering contraceptive coverage could turn back to the courts for relief themselves, charging gender discrimination.

“There will be no shortage of exciting moments in the coming months,” said Amiri.

–Juli Rovner, Kaiser Health News

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12 Responses for “Birth Control Coverage: Hobby Lobby Decision May Not Be The Last Word”

  1. Well.... says:

    Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to cover birth control but has no problem covering Viagra. Interesting ideology. I guess the men that work at Hobby Lobby are naturally impotent and have erectile dysfunction so of course, as a Christian employer, you must help your male employees have a fulfilling and rewarding sex life. Women that don’t want to have children and take birth control are just sluts, right Hobby Lobby? Right, SCOTUS? What kind of messed up world are we living in? Oh, that is right, a male dominated one that still views women are lesser beings, objectifying them as objects of pleasure, and wanting them to be subservient. Oh well, 2014 feels a lot like 1950….maybe in my next life, the world will have actually progressed to where people are people and everyone is treated the same (I won’t hold my breath).

    • Shelia says:

      I agree with you. This whole thing is very deceptive. If you read the info you will see they didn’t really do anything other than refuse women the rights they should have. NO HOBBY LOBBY FOR ME.

    • Read it says:

      Well, well you should do a little reading, Hobby Lobby pays for 16 different contraception types and has for years, that’s not enough?

  2. John Smallberries says:

    If Hobby Lobby was genuinely concerned about the moral implications of providing birth control methods like those mentioned in SCOTUS decision, then why do they have something like $73 million invested in companies that make Plan B, IUDs, etc?

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2014/04/01/hobby-lobby-401k-discovered-to-be-investor-in-numerous-abortion-and-contraception-products-while-claiming-religious-objection/

  3. JG says:

    I’ll confess to having objectified a particular woman as an object of pleasure for over forty years, but damned if I ever demanded (or noticed) any subservience. On the Hobby Lobby ruling I share part of your dismay but tend to view it through the prism of a disintegrating society–much like present day Iraq. We going to be Shia and Sunni, and I hope like hell I can find some safe haven to be a Kurd.

  4. Andrea Stowell says:

    Funny how states law means nothing when it comes to gay marriage.

  5. rickg says:

    The idea that corporations have human qualities is abhorrent at best and should be rejected outright by American voters. Corporations have religious beliefs??? Perhaps things would be different when an Islamic closely held company decides to ride on the coattails of this egregious decision.

    • Outsider says:

      Of course corporations don’t have religious beliefs, but the people who form them certainly may. The first action of anyone seriously considering a business startup is to incorporate to shield the individual’s personal assets from lawsuits against the business enterprise. When I was 25 I started a small business, I incorporated and from beginning to end it was me, myself, and I. This notion some have that the moment you incorporate you become a emotionless, feelingless zombie that is required to check all sense of self at the door obviously don’t understand real life. Fortunately, the Constitution allows you the freedom to speak authoritatively on subjects you have no direct knowledge of.

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On “Well….says”! Just where is the separation of church and state? I am all for religious freedom, BUT, I also would love to be “free FROM religion”. . . especially those that are male dominated.

    It is outrageous that “anyone” would think it is OK for insurance policies to pay for Viagra and other similar drugs, but not for birth control. When, oh when, will our societies and laws finally treat women as EQUAL human beings????

  7. Larry Bell says:

    Hobby Lobby…Once again the bought & paid for supreme court sided with corporations and religion. Just because this group “believes” something they can’t prove, we all have to be subjected to this nonsense. An IUD is like abortion? The IUD prevents fertilization of the egg, “prevent” being the operative word. But if you only read one book you wouldn’t know this. But then if forty-six percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. Against a mountain of scientific evidence this ignorance still prevails.

  8. Lin says:

    The Hobby lobby decision will only prevent the government from forcing the company to pay for devices that are outside of their religious beliefs There is no freedom from religion only freedom of religion
    Other methods of birth control are provided

    These other methods are stlll legal and available — no discrimination here
    When did we start to be entitled to force other people to give up their faith in favor of someone else just to get the birth control of their choice?

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    It is simply infringing on personal liberty and rights when any employer imposes their religious or other private belief systems on their employees. It is never reasonable or just for an employer to decide what kind of perfectly legal medical services their employees are entitled to under their insurance plan. Hobby Lobby isn’t paying for the medical services, an insurance company is! No one is forcing Hobby Lobby owners to give up their faith! On the other hand, Hobby Lobby owners should NOT be forcing their religious beliefs on their employees!

    I have browsed Hobby Lobby, out of curiosity, but never found anything but junk there anyway. . . therefore avoiding shopping there will be my great pleasure.

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