Where Does Freedom End?

Hobby Lobby appears to have opened an entire can of worms with its victory early last week, allowing “closely held” companies to opt out of covering birth control by claiming it is against their sincere religious beliefs. Just days after the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court expanded its ruling, deciding that non-profit Christian colleges may opt out of the contraception mandate as well for the same reasons. The argument made by Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College was contraception is an unbearable burden on them morally. Supporters of Hobby Lobby cheered for their perceived notion of religious freedom being upheld, while detractors decried the very real possibility of women being prevented from having access to contraception.

Contraception didn’t literally vanish once the ruling was issued last Monday morning, but to many women nationwide it may as well have. The costs of contraception out of pocket aren’t enormous, but for women who make minimum wage or slightly more, the cost could be devastating. This case leaves the potential for countless women to be left without access to affordable birth control, even for non-pregnancy purposes. Even though Hobby Lobby has attempt to defended itself by asserting only certain types of birth control, primarily morning after pills, are the only types not being covered, I don’t think we can give the benefit of the doubt that every other company impacted from this decision will take the same course of action. After all, Hobby Lobby opposed the morning after pill because the owners believed it was the equivalent of an abortion.

But scientifically, that is inaccurate. If the owners of Hobby Lobby want to believe that, they can, but it holds no kind of academic merit and shouldn’t be taken as an equal opinion to the evidence presented in front of us. The morning after pill prevents ovulation, meaning conception never takes place. There is no contact between egg and sperm when a morning after pill is utilized. The other forms of contraception that will no longer be covered, IUD’s, are small items inserted into the woman and prevent the sperm from making contact with the egg; once more, conception does not occur. An abortion requires conception to have taken place, which is why the mantra of the Pro-Life Movement is “Life begins at conception”. While there is indeed an “abortion pill”, that was not being disputed by Hobby Lobby because coverage of that pill isn’t mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Yet, it seems that life begins even before conception to the owners of Hobby Lobby. But how can we even begin to defend this position when there is an established, proven position that refutes it?

If we deem that opinion permissible, despite the clear indications that it isn’t true, the court has just allowed other companies to refuse to cover any form of contraception on the grounds of false premises. This case sets the precedent that just because one believes something strongly enough, it immediately is an equal to facts. It’s disturbing because it says religious liberty can trump scientific evidence, at least in certain cases. Conservatives are quick to point out that this case only applies to birth control, not vital medical procedures such as blood transfusions. But that argument just shows the state of sex education in the United States, where many individuals don’t seem to understand that birth control can be used for purposes beyond pregnancy prevention, and again, that there is no conception involved with these forms of contraception. Selectively accepting science has already been observed in cases of climate change and evolution, but this is a whole different level.

The Supreme Court endorses selective science with their ruling. This can leave companies with a way to opt out of covering birth control just because they don’t understand or agree with the science behind it. Selective view of science allows employers to cite religious liberty in their opposition to the contraception mandate by concocting a false moral burden. Even if this burden conflicts with the “sincerely held” religious beliefs, it isn’t an actual moral burden. Religious liberty cannot possibly be infringed upon when the supposed burden doesn’t actually exist. Everyone has the freedom of religion, and no one should take that right away.

However, why would we expand freedom of religion to mean imaginary burdens can circumvent the law, especially if in the process we harm other individuals? There are religious sects that oppose vaccinations and blood transfusions. That isn’t religious liberty, it’s simply an unfortunate case of a misinformed employer, and the court doesn’t allow them to get away with their flawed information. Why should we treat contraception any differently? Freedom only goes as far as not infringing upon the freedom of others. The endorsement of selective science is going to harm individuals, rather than help anyone. Had Hobby Lobby been required to provide birth control to its employees, no one’s freedom would have been infringed upon. Instead, many women will be harmed financially or medically in order to preserve a very skewed definition of religious liberty. It isn’t a loss of a constitutional right for women by the Hobby Lobby decision, but neither would a loss for Hobby Lobby have meant the loss of constitutional rights for the owners. But the decision does harm women; Hobby Lobby wouldn’t have been harmed either way. Leaving me with one question: Did we really preserve freedom last week?


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