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Bob Sparks: Rhetoric aside, Hobby Lobby workers still get contraception coverage

One week has now passed since the United States Supreme Court decided the case officially known as Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (Hobby Lobby).

A long explanation is unnecessary because if any reader is unfamiliar with this case, that reader will look no further anyway.

The court created quite a dust-up.  Most of the media pundits disagreed with the decision.  Some of the vitriol has been over the top.

“Hobby Lobby decision bad for women’s health” screamed the Los Angeles Times.  The Detroit Free Press wrote a disturbing editorial that described the justices who agreed with Hobby Lobby as “the five Catholics in the majority.”

I’m sorry, but that is religious bigotry in this writer’s eyes.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the decision “jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies.”  Earnest speaks for the President of the United States.  Hillary Clinton lamented that a Hobby Lobby “salesclerk, who needs contraception” will be denied access to birth control.

Closer to home, Florida Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the decision “blocks women from making their own health care decisions.”

Where to begin?

First, all of these statements are incorrect.   For example, Clinton’s statements received a “mostly false” rating from PolitiFact and earned “two Pinocchios” from the Washington Post.

The overheated rhetoric misleads the public into believing Hobby Lobby is preventing the company’s female employees from gaining access to contraceptives.  This, in the kindest use of the English language, is nonsense on stilts.  The truth is that the most popular forms of contraception are still available to employees, both women and men — for free.

Not only does Hobby Lobby’s health plan provide coverage for three types of birth control pills, there are 13 other freely accessible methods of contraception for both genders from the federal Food and Drug Administration’s approved list of 20.  The case centered on the company’s religious objection to providing the other four that company owners and others believe is similar to abortion.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines contraception as “things that are done to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant” and “deliberate prevention of conception and impregnation.”   Using that definition, perhaps more Pinocchios were required.

This case also revisited the terminology known as “closely held” corporations.  These are mom-and-pop companies or larger corporations started or controlled by families or individuals or have other individuals involved.

The case does not involve corporate giants such as General Motors and Coca-Cola.  Since closely held corporations are owned, directed and run by real people, the court is treating them as such.   The decision lifted closely held corporations to the same level as non-profits under the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

The concept of “corporations are people” has generated as much angst among the far left as their fantasy that women are being denied contraception.  The left has been sore about this concept since the 2010 Citizens United case, which held that these corporations are also real people regarding political speech.

In its editorial, the Los Angeles Times said that Justice Samuel Alito “held, unpersuasively, that Hobby Lobby and other companies qualified as ‘persons’ and, even more absurdly, that making contraception available to employees who would make their own reproductive decision was a ‘substantial burden’ on the religious freedom of employers.”

The Times, and those who think like its editorial writers, cannot make any credible claim that women are being denied contraceptives.  They forget, or ignore, what contraception is.  Nor can their taking umbrage at the relief granted to closely held corporations be taken seriously.

If the Times was unpersuaded by Alito, perhaps Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan may carry greater weight.  While joining Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s heated dissent, both Breyer and Kagan made it clear they were not joining the argument regarding closely held corporations.

This 5-4 decision, like the 5-4 decision that green-lighted Obamacare, is now part of history.  The contraception benefit was legally created by the executive branch under authority granted by Obamacare.  It’s the law of the land.

But so is religious freedom.   The court held that American citizens who happen to own corporations do not forfeit their rights just because the federal bureaucracy interprets things differently.

Only two justices joined the argument that closely held corporations should not have the same rights as individuals or non-profits in this matter.  Contraception is readily available to all employees of Hobby Lobby.

The republic will somehow survive the Hobby Lobby decision.

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Written By

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at and Twitter @BobSparksFL.

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