Contraception

Are Corporations People Too?: Hobby Lobby and Religious Liberty

Supreme_Court_US_2010Who would have ever imagined that a craft store chain owned by a Christian family would be at the center of a Supreme Court case about sexuality, abortifacient drugs, the role of corporations, and religious liberty? Oral arguments were heard today in the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The central point of the case is whether or not the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian bookstores, has the right to exercise their religious freedom in opting out of the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employer-provided health plans to offer emergency birth control drugs at no charge to their employees. The Greens have objected on religious grounds that such emergency birth control options are tantamount to abortion and that providing abortion-inducing drugs is a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.

Trying to predict what the Supreme Court will decide is an exercise in futility, so I will not go down that road. However, I do want to highlight a few interesting notes from today’s oral arguments.

The first is not all that surprising (and possibly not all that interesting)—the high court appears divided. From the best one can tell from the questioning, the Supreme Court is split 4-4 with Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor apparently siding with the government and Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito leaning towards Hobby Lobby. This leaves Justice Anthony Kennedy as the deciding vote in an otherwise divided Court. This is familiar territory for the current version of the Supreme Court.

The second item of note is that the role of a corporation seems to be a big question. Some of the liberal justices seemed to imply that corporations should simply be able to pick up the tab for the healthcare expenses or fees for not providing healthcare with no impact on the business or the economy. They did not seem to take into account that these healthcare costs have to be paid by someone and that the costs would most likely be passed along to the customer. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor also pressed Paul Clement, the attorney arguing for Hobby Lobby, about whether corporations could opt out of other healthcare options for their employees. Lyle Denniston reports that they “suggested that if corporations gain an exemption from having to provide birth-control services for their female employees, then the next complaint would be about vaccinations, blood transfusions, and a whole host of other medical and non-medical services that a company or its owners might find religiously objectionable.”

On the other hand, Justice Alito pushed back against Solicitor General Donald Verrilli regarding the purpose of corporations. He asked the Solicitor General if the only purpose of corporations was to “maximize profits.” If the object is only to maximize profits, then corporations would have no other rights. However, if corporations serve other purposes, then they might have the right to protection under the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment.

The third item is the most interesting development in my opinion. It relates to the rights of a corporation to make a claim regarding discrimination. The government argued that for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby have no standing to file a claim against the government based on religious discrimination. On the surface this seems to make sense because corporations are not churches, nor are they individuals with religious beliefs. However, the government has already held that corporations can file claims based on racial discrimination. In the same sense, corporations are not individuals of a particular race or ethnicity. The racial discrimination claims have typically been based on the race and ethnicity of the owners.

Applying the same standard to the religious freedom aspect of the Hobby Lobby case, it would appear that the Green family’s deeply held religious beliefs (and clear articulation of those beliefs in company documents) would provide the corporation with the same protections as those guaranteed to them as individuals. This argument could prove to be central in the upcoming decision of the Court.

Once again, we will be left to wait for months until hearing the decision of the Supreme Court that will most likely come in June. Until then, it is futile to speculate what the Court will decide. However, there is one thing that we can do. We can pray for the justices of the Supreme Court that God would grant them wisdom in judging these matters. We should pray for godly wisdom that they would rule according to God’s will. We should pray that they would value life in the way that God values life—seeing those in the womb as no different than a full-grown adult (Psalm 139:13–16).

I urge you to join me in prayer for John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The future of religious liberty in the United States is in their hands.
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Lyle Denniston, “Argument recap: One hearing, two dramas,” SCOTUSblog, March 25, 2014.

Derrick Morgan, Hans von Spakovsky, and Elizabeth Slattery, “How the Supreme Court Justices Reacted to Today’s Hobby Lobby Arguments,” The Foundry, March 25, 2014.

Ilya Shapiro, “Is There No Alternative to Forcing People to Violate Their Religious Beliefs?” Cato Institute, March 25, 2014.

ObamaCare, Contraception, and the War on Women

What is the war on women? The phrase has been used by various political groups to characterize attitudes related to the perspective on women’s roles in the home and workplace. In recent days, the idea of a war on women has been used to describe the debate over whether or not the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., ObamaCare) should provide all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives to women at no cost to them. The typical accusations of a war against women have been lobbed against conservatives who seek to limit the government’s role in providing contraceptives.

Now it seems that a new front of the war on women has been opened, but this time it comes from a very unlikely place–progressives attempting to justify the contraceptive mandate of ObamaCare.

A number of articles have appeared in recent days highlighting a series of ads produced by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado. These ads seek to explain why young adults, particularly young women, should sign up for insurance on the new health exchanges.

Even though there are a few different versions, the theme of these advertisements directed at women is that you need free contraceptives in order to participate in promiscuous sexual activity without regret. Without these free contraceptives, you may not be able to “enjoy” the liberation of your sexuality.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, attempted to justify the ads promoting promiscuous behavior. She stated, “People get upset when you portray women as independent. We think this ad is really about healthy relationships and that people are taking control of their lives with health care.”

The problem with these ads is twofold. First, they objectify women by speaking of them in exclusively sexual terms. In one of the ads, a cut-out of Ryan Gosling is portrayed as being “excited about getting to know” the real-life girl pictured in the ad. His excitement stems from the fact that she has easy access to birth control.

This perspective on women is demeaning and unbiblical. Yes, God created man and woman with a sexual nature (He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis 1:28). However, we are all much more than our sexuality. We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and have value as persons in that image, not simply because we have a sexual nature.

Second, these ads promote risky sexual behavior with a false sense of security. Simply limiting the possibility of pregnancy does not make sexual activity outside of marriage safe, much less commendable. The hook-up culture of college campuses leads to a host of problems including sexually transmitted infections, pornography, emotional attachment, and potential violence. Contraceptives do not address these issues. Giving a false sense of security through free birth control pills only exacerbates the problem.

This is why God’s design for sexuality is that it should only be expressed within the context of marriage. In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Many people may look this verse and say that the Bible is stuck in the Dark Ages. However, the reality is that God’s design for sex exclusively within marriage is the safest and most fulfilling option.

Is there a war on women? There certainly seems to be, but it is not what you may have been led to believe. The war on women is being waged by groups like ProgressNow Colorado who view women as nothing but objects of sexual desire. Instead, we need to proclaim that women find their true value in the fact that they are made in the image of God.

*I apologize for posting the content of the ads in the pictures on this blog post, but I felt it was necessary to see that they are actually real. The rest of the ads can be found at http://www.doyougotinsurance.com.

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Kurtis Lee, “Pro-Obamacare ads targeting millennials stir controversy in Colorado,” The Denver Post, November 12, 2013.

Emily Miller, “MILLER: New Obamacare ads make young women look like sluts,” The Washington Times, November 12, 2013.

Federal Judge Requires Non-Prescription Access to Morning-After Pill in a Month

UltrasoundU.S. District Judge Edward Korman (Eastern District of New York) has ruled that the FDA must make the multiple versions of the morning-after pill available over-the-counter without a prescription and without age restrictions within one month. The FDA had previously decided to make the morning-after pill available to girls younger that 17, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellius overruled the FDA in 2011, setting the age restriction of 17 or older.

The court decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights. According to CNN, Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded to the decision by saying, “Today science has finally prevailed over politics. This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods.”

I actually believe Northrup has it wrong. Politics has prevailed in this instance to the detriment of girls and young women across the country. Since the sexual revolution, there has been a movement to separate sexual activity from marriage. The goal has been to make sexual expression the epitome of freedom. Instead, girls and young women are going to find themselves shackled with more emotional baggage and more sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, girls may experience “coerced” or even “forced” use of the morning-after pill by boyfriends, casual partners, or even parents wishing to “limit the damage” from their sexual expression. This is not freedom–it is bondage to culture.

Judge Korman even makes an interesting remark toward Sebellius and the FDA in his judgment. He states:

The FDA has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition. Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster. Moreover, one of the devices the FDA has employed to stall proceedings was to seek public comment on whether or not it needed to engage in rulemaking in order to adopt an age-restricted marketing regime. After eating up eleven months, 47,000 public comments, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, it decided that it did not need rulemaking after all. The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency’s misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction.

Does Judge Korman not believe that the FDA may have actually been seeking the well-being of young girls? His commentary in the court order is chilling. The fact that the FDA was seeking public comment and input on whether or not this was good for 10-16 year old girls is a good thing. However, Korman views it as agency misconduct.

From the outset of creation, God has declared that the sexual relationship is properly expressed only within marriage. This is one way in which marriage is ordered to procreation. The vast majority of individuals seeking the use of these abortion-inducing drugs will not be married adults. They will instead be young people pursuing unhindered sexual freedom who suddenly find themselves shackled by the consequences of their behavior. When you add the category of girls who will be coerced into taking these drugs by those who “love” them, the damage becomes overwhelming.

This decision further undermines the institution of marriage and elevates abortion to the status of relieving a headache with Tylenol. This is a sad commentary on the culture of the “New America.”

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Edward Korman, Tumino vs. Hamburg, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, April 4, 2013.

Judges orders morning-after pill available without prescription,” CNN, April 5, 2013.

Federal judge rules morning-after pill must be available for women of all ages,” Fox News, April 5, 2013.

For more information about the impact of the sexual culture on young women, pick up a copy of Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women by Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., and Freda McKissic Bush.

Breaking News: Judge Orders Morning-After Pill to Be Available to All without Prescription

*Read my update on this issue here.

Both CNN and Fox News are reporting this morning that a federal judge will order the FDA to make the morning-after pill available to people of any age without a prescription. This now means that a 14-year-old girl could get Plan B or Ella from the school nurse just like Tylenol. In fact, she could go to the local Walgreens or CVS and get it as well. This demonstrates how pervasive the pro-choice/pro-abortion lobby is. This is sad news indeed.

Use of “Morning-After Pill” on the Rise

Percentage of sexually experienced women aged 15–44 who have ever used emergency contraception: United States, 1995, 2002, and 2006–2010, and frequency of use among women who have ever used emergency contraception, 2006–2010. SOURCES: CDC/NCHS, National Survey of Family Growth, 1995, 2002, and 2006–2010.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last week that flew under the radar of most news organizations. They conducted a five-year study (2006–2010) on the use of the “morning-after pill” (labeled “emergency contraception” in the study—more on that later) and found that 11% of “sexually experienced women aged 15–44 . . . had used emergency contraception, up from 4.2% in 2002.” Thus, in less than ten years, use of this form of birth control has almost tripled.

Other facts released in the study include:

  • Most women who had ever used emergency contraception had done so once (59%) or twice (24%).
  • Young adult women aged 20–24 were most likely to have ever used emergency contraception; about one in four had done so (23%).
  • Almost 1 in 5 never-married women (19%), 1 in 7 cohabiting women (14%), and 1 in 20 currently or formerly married women (5.7%) had ever used emergency contraception.
  • Non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women were more likely to have ever used emergency contraception (11%) compared with non-Hispanic black women (7.9%).
  • Ever-use of emergency contraception increased with educational attainment—12% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher and 11% of women with some college education had ever used it. This compares with 7.1% of women who had a high school diploma or GED and 5.5% of women with less than a high school education.

We can make a few key observations from this report. First, emergency birth control is on the rise. As this method of eliminating an unplanned pregnancy has become more normalized, the rates of use have gone up significantly.

Second, the use of emergency birth control is especially high in women in their 20’s. As the median age of first marriage gets older (28.7 for men and 26.5 for women as of 2011), the number of unmarried women having a sexual relationship increases. Most of those desire to avoid pregnancy and opt for emergency solutions when other methods fail or are not employed. This trend is likely to continue as marriage and children become less of a norm.

Third, education seems to increase the likelihood of using emergency birth control even though it also increases the likelihood of marriage. Despite the fact that married women are less likely to use the morning-after pill and women with more education tend to get married, the two trends do not track together. It is possible that those with more education using the emergency birth control are moving towards marriage but have not yet arrived at that stage.

So what should we make of this? Does this represent the demise of family and biblical sexuality in American culture? Should the church even be concerned?

In short, the church should be concerned on a few different levels. This issue is not going away any time soon, so we need to be prepared to address it. Let me note a few items for us to consider.

The first issue is a terminology problem. As evidenced in the report, the morning-after pill is labeled as emergency contraception. However, this is inaccurate. Contraception, by its very definition, is something that prevents conception. Plan B, Ella, and other forms of this pill are intended to prevent pregnancy after intercourse; thus, taking into account that fertilization may have already occurred. Therefore, they should be called birth control (preventing birth) rather than contraception.

The second issue is a life problem. The CDC report notes, “Emergency contraception can be used by women after sexual intercourse in an effort to prevent an unintended pregnancy. Roughly one-half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.” Intended or unintended, pregnancies represent lives. Innocent human life in the form of a developing baby in the womb is that which is eliminated by emergency birth control. Those who are in favor of protecting unborn life should stand in opposition to the proliferation of these drugs. Unfortunately, our culture views children more as commodities than lives. They are financial investments and burdens rather than blessings (Psalm 127:3–5). We need to return to a biblical perspective on children and life in the womb.

The third problem is the lack of information in the church. Birth control is one of those issues we just don’t talk about. However, nearly a quarter of the women aged 20–24 in the survey had used emergency birth control. It’s a tough issue. You are talking about life, reproduction, medical decisions, and other aspects of the private lives of women all at the same time. Just because it is difficult, though, does not mean we should avoid it. My guess is that many of these women represent churches all across the United States. In fact, there are probably women scattered throughout Southern Baptist congregations who have used this form of birth control.

We need to talk about it. We need to inform our people. We need to protect life. In and of itself, it may not represent the demise of marriage and family in culture, but it certainly speaks to a trajectory we are currently on.

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Kimberly Daniels, Jo Jones, and Joyce Abma, “Use of Emergency Contraception Among Women Aged 15–44: United States, 2006–2010,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 2013.