The American Dream: Hobby Lobby, pro-life ethics, and me

Isn’t the American dream autonomy over self in the face of the man, getting a little privacy and a little power — just enough to live well and in peace?

I’m not much of one for American idealism, but this bit has always resonated. We like the freedom to do was we please so long as it hurts no one other than ourselves.

Which is why yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on Burnwell v. Hobby Lobby is pesky and awkward. But what’s more, it’s the result of a complex network of decisions and chess moves by the conservative Christian right set in play for more than 20 years. And I haven’t thoroughly read all the details in the ruling and the dissent by Ginsburg (bless her), but this is personal and I know enough to get myself into a little trouble talking about it, and I need to talk about it.

When I was getting divorced, I also left my job without knowing where I would end up next — depression and a detail-oriented job was an unsustainable situation, and I needed to get out of DC. But I was also having funky side effects from my hormonal oral contraception that I was using and I didn’t want to leave my job and have my insurance end without knowing what was going on and what to do to fix it. I researched options and concluded that I needed to be on something non-hormonal, and then, as I narrowed down my best choices, I learned that because the newly-enacted ACA was changing my health care coverage for the last month I was on it, I would be eligible for my birth control to be fully covered by my employer.

And I was facing rent I knew I couldn’t pay for another month, running numbers on a potential cross-country move, and generally running frightened rabbit loops in my head about money and my future. I had two weeks left, about $1,000 in my name, and a car loan and final bills and gas and groceries and no solid prospect for a job. (Aside: depression makes decision making really vile.) And I knew that a) one in three women are sexually abused and b) I was probably going to be dating again in the near future and c) generally just wanted to take no unnecessary risks with my future and d) the idea of having a child sent me into anxiety attacks.

So I looked at that $700 copper IUD covered by the ACA through my insurance, and I said “yes, please” and got it for myself as an autonomy present after my divorce. That little inch of copper says that my future is my own, my body is my own, and I decide when I’m ready for whatever comes next.

And I paid nothing for it. I swear, this has been the biggest boost in my self-confidence and general peace of mind. It was free, and it gives me my power as an adult woman.

Others aren’t so lucky. I know that my IUD isn’t going to cause abortions, because I researched it and educated myself. But the number of conservative Christian women I grew up with whose science education is so lacking that they don’t know that (for example) being on hormonal birth control actually reduces the possibility of a fertilized egg getting sloughed off in menstruation when compared with the natural risk of this occurring without being on birth control of any sort.

And I also know women who weren’t as lucky as I was, whose minimum wage employers kept their hours just below the full time mark in order to not have to pay for their heath care costs, and who couldn’t afford birth control before the ACA and ended up pregnant or unable to treat their endometriosis symptoms or their PMDD and became depressed, bedridden, suicidal, or just plain overworked and exhausted. And, this isn’t just one or two of my friends. This is a large portion of the women I know.

Contraception isn’t just an extra funtimes experimental drug that women sometimes do for kicks when they feel wicked.

Sometimes it’s the difference between freedom and reduced options, between autonomy and wage-slave exhaustion.


There’s a piece of the ruling that rests on something called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which was pushed into place by none other than Michael Farris of HSLDA, and his then-compatriot, Doug Phillips, formerly of Vision Forum.  This RFRA is what (basically) enabled Wisconsin v. Yoder to be an active playing card in the religious freedom discussion today (and what keeps homeschool reform from occurring and the parental rights movement alive and well).

The piece of the ruling is the part where it rules that a private corporation is a person whose religious rights can be violated. As sussed out by my good friend, a law school graduate studying for the bar this summer:

The majority says that the answer to the first question [Can a corporation be a “person” within the meaning of RFRA?] is “yes,” a corporation is a person who can exercise religious beliefs under RFRA.  This is a statutory and not a constitutional interpretation.  One interesting part of the ruling is that the majority says RFRA is not limited to restoring the Court’s pre-Smith Free Exercise jurisprudence.  This opens the door for the Court to expand RFRA protection to cover even more things than the Free Exercise Clause covered prior to Smith.  Additionally, the majority limited this ruling to “closely-held” corporations.  This means that this ruling does not apply to corporations that are publicly traded.  However, the majority did not provide any reason to make a hard division between closely held and publicly traded corporations.  It just said it would be “improbable” for a publicly traded corporation to be operated according to religious beliefs.  This leaves the door wide open for a clever plaintiff to get the Court to expand RFRA protection to publicly traded corporations as well.  The majority also dismissed the argument that it would be difficult to determine a corporation’s religious belief when different board members have different religious beliefs.  The majority just said we would turn to state law when such questions arise. ” – Carmen Green

The whole of her analysis of the ruling is intelligent, insightful, and well-worth reading.

The layers of hypocrisy and back room dealing involved in this case are just appalling. Not only does this set legal precedent for clever appeals to chip away at the ACA, and not only is it largely possible due to horrific legal engineering of Christian reconstructionists, it has detailed and sweeping ramifications that make me see red.

The appeal was designed to also prevent women from receiving contraceptive counseling from their doctors related to any of the drugs that their employers happen to object to. Why?

Hobby Lobby seems to have no problem with dealing with China, where forced abortions and sterilizations happen on the regular. Why?

Hobby Lobby’s retirement fund options involve stock in companies that manufacture the drugs they’ve asserted that they object to their employees using. They could have chosen alternative retirement plans that opted out of these investment options, but they didn’t. Why?

Hobby Lobby previously provided coverage for these contraceptives that they apparently object to, but that was before the ACA came along and required them to provide this coverage. Instead of choosing to maintain their status quo coverage, they raised the religious objection flag and started their fight. Why?

Educate yourself. I’m still shakey with how angry this ruling has made me — it’s a deep cavern of lies, money-based hypocrisy, and carefully constructed long-term plans to reinvent how religious freedom is defined.

And ultimately, this ruling is statistically likely to cause more abortions to occur in the U.S. in the future than would have occurred if these employers had agreed to provide ample coverage for reproductive health products. So much for pro-life consistency.

32 thoughts on “The American Dream: Hobby Lobby, pro-life ethics, and me

  1. It’s certainly a frustrating (and somewhat frightening) decision. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and some very helpful links.

    I thought your readers might also be interesting in reading two posts by one of Christian Feminism Today’s writers, Julia K Stronks J.D., Ph.D, the Edward B. Lindaman Chair at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash.

    Prior to the decision she wrote “Contraception, Religious Freedom, and the Supreme Court” for CFT ( This article helps clarify some of the legal issues that were involved.

    Just the other day she wrote a really great article with Jeffrey F. Peipert, MD, PhD., the Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, about the science of the birth control methods in question. “A Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Hobby Lobby Could Lead to More Abortions” is a terrific short article published on the Roll Call website ( ).

  2. And what pisses me off most about it is all the people that are cheering “religious freedom! Yay!” This isn’t about religious freedom. It’s about religious _domination_. This says that the religious rights of the 1% trump those of the 99%. But how many people in America don’t get that? How many people just listen to their high powered right wing pastors tell them that religious freedom is at stake, and like sheeple, they believe them?

  3. While I certainly disagree with large parts of this ruling, I feel like someone has to play devil’s advocate here. Hobby Lobby might be total hypothetical jerks, and the ruling may be troubling, but it’s not insane. Start with Hobby Lobby’s basic religious premise: a fertilized egg is a human being. If you accept that (which I certainly don’t claim that you should) everything else follows pretty quickly. From their perspective, you’re asking them to subsidize murder. That would seem to be a fairly substantial thing, and would be the sort of belief that the first amendment might conceivably protect. They may be total hypocrites about the issue, but that doesn’t make them legally incorrect, just jerks. It’s important to separate hating Hobby Lobby and hating the legal justification for the ruling. Once again, I don’t agree with this ruling, but you can’t pretend that it came totally out of left field and has no legal bearing whatsoever. Crucially, large portions of it rest on interpretations of laws, NOT the constitution. Theoretically, congress could change those laws with relative ease. At the very least, you dear reader, could write your congressman, and ask them to do so.

    1. By the same argument, you should be legally exempted from taxes if you object to subsidizing war.

    2. The idea that IUDs and the morning after pill are murder is fantasy. We are now living in a world where people can just make shit up, slap the word “religious” on it and gain control over their employees lives. Great job, scotus!

    3. I have a point of contention. An egg could become fertilized but never implant. The egg is now lost. The pregnancy never occurred. If you leave it at a fertilized egg is a human, then you fail to consider that the key part of what determines when a woman is pregnant is that implantation. It is why women going throug IVF are not declared pregnant until the doctors can verify that it has implanted. Otherwise, all of us will need to stop eating chicken eggs because those eggs could actually be chickens. What these non daily pill methods do is prevent implantation from ever occurring. From my perspective, they are just legalists forcing their views on everyone else. And it is very dangerous.

      1. I’m not disagreeing with any of the medical issues here. Hobby Lobby’s general hypocrisy is fairly well established. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really affect their legal standing, or the validity of their legal arguments. Everyone is equally entitled to believe whatever insanity they want and if it is a religious belief it has special protections.
        A fairly major point of good news though: this case does not affect all contraception, only a few forms. Even Hobby Lobby has no issue with a great many types of contraception, and these remain untouched. This is not exactly an ideal situation, but it’s not as if the case is banning contraception in general.

  4. I do not see a win for religion because the Greens did nothing for religion. What they did was legalistic and sexist. What they caused is women like me who have been on almost birth control pill possible for medical reasons to be at risk for death because they are trying to dictate that God’s silence on the matter of birth control must mean that God is against it and impose their beliefs on me by saying insurance cannot cover it anymore. If my doctor deems an IUD medically necessary, then my insurance should cover it, especially if pay any or all of the premiums. I am not asking for free. I am just asking that my insurance covers what my doctor says I need. Legally, I may not be allowed to carry a child at all. My body would not be able to handle it. If my daily pill were to malfunction due another medicine and I were assaulted and got pregnant, a judge could dictate in my case after a plea from my caregiver that I need to be put on plan B. Get this…Plan B only works if taken early enough in the first 72 hours after such an event. It prevents implantation. Pregnancy does not happen until a fertilized egg implants. Plan B even cites, based on medical SCIENCE, that it does not cause abortion (termination if existing pregnancy). Plan B is OTC. Unless there is insurance covering OTC now, it is likely not covered. An IUD is not a pill.

    Oh hey, I also do not see a win for politics either. What I see is a move that will say that all employer based insurance needs to be eliminated. Make tons truly equal when it comes to the insurance game. My insurance should not be better or worse than the person who gets insurance through a job just because my insurance is private pay. Remove employer based insurance so employees can get whatever coverage they need that best fits their needs. More players in the game lowers the cost and drives more competition in states that currently have monopolies. More competition lowers the cost even more. A win-win for society as a whole.

    1. Speaking as an atheist who studies both law and economics, whether or not “God” is silent on the matter is irrelevant to the legal analysis. The only question U.S. federal courts care about regards whether the belief is sincerely held. There doesn’t need to be evidence that it’s true either factually or under the doctrines of their faith. All the court cares to know is whether the belief is sincerely held.

      Really, the best solution surrounding all of this is to decouple health insurance from employment and make individuals’ health insurance expenditure tax deductible as it currently is for employers.

  5. This blog is what spurred me on to get an iud. Given that I’ve been assaulted without protection makes me want to protect myself and my body in case that a situation like that happens again.

  6. You fancy yourself courageous, autonomous, and grown up, even while telling a story of fear, dependence, incapacity, and imprudence. Facing a divorce, you quit your job without another job and move across country. You calculatedly and cynically throw off sexual restraint, which gives you qualms only over the economics but not the morals (except the token and self-congratulatory pro-life scruples). And even though you are convinced one third of women are sexually abused (your stat not mine), you can’t wait to get into a sexual relationship. By your own testimony, you are a child, an imbecile, incapable of judging your own actions by your own standards. At least you avow that your decision-making was shit, but then you promote those actions as an example for yourself and others.

    “I got [the IUD] for myself as an autonomy present after my divorce.”

    I might — might — have more respect for you (i.e., some respect for you) if you had said, “The insurance got me an IUD, so I can screw whom I want without fear”.

    “That little inch of copper says my future is my own, body is my own…”

    You read like a catechism extracted from a litany of 1970s Virginia Slims ads. That one inch of copper says your body belongs to every inch of dick you take inside you. Based on your pix, Hännah, I’d lend my several inches to that body, and I’d lend you my seed whilst looking in your cute eyes, but not for keeps, only in the knowledge that you have ensured my freedom from consequences, because you are not commitment material. Your ex was wise to escape your mercenary ways and get out of Dodge with his resources intact.

    Hännah’s lexicon:

    Free = paid by insurance; lacking sexual restraints

    Autonomy = lack of sexual restraints

    Dependence = not being free to fuck whom she wants when she wants

    Independence = access to resources that allow her to fuck whom she wants when she wants

    Sexual abuse, sexual assault = the rolls in the hay and blow jobs she gave her previous bf; what she will call the ones she’s giving her current bf, after he breaks up with her for being a slut

    Dating = extraction of resources from men; alternatively, having sex without the burden of commitment

    Adult woman = a woman with her own place or her own car, which allow her to fuck whom she wants when she wants

    Self-confidence = self-indulgence

    Peace of mind = freedom from the consequences of sluthood

    Power as an adult woman = reliance on others’ resources that allow her to fuck whom she wants when she wants

    Unnecessary risk = child

    Prediction: within a year, Hännah is in a lesbian relationship with no fear of pregnancy, sexual abuse, or patriarchal oppression, scraping by on wage jobs where there is no glass ceiling — i.e., completely autonomous, independent, and broke. Clare, meanwhile, has under Hännah’s tutelage totally said “Redact you!” to the patriarchy, cast aside all restraint, and fully explored and expressed her sexuality as a liberated woman. Accordingly, she is knocked up and alone, on WIC and housing assistance, yearning for some nice, homeschooled, patriarchally trained provider boy to come like a white knight and rescue a courageous single mom and her bastard child from self-inflicted poverty. You go, grrlz!

    1. I don’t normally engage with comment sections, and certainly not with dicks with anger issues, but you need to understand exactly what you just said and what Hannah wrote. If you pay attention she got the IUD not so she can screw whoever she wants without fear of the consequences, although as you so ignorantly pointed out that is generally an option only for us men, but because even dating for women is risking sexual assault. Really, just being a woman is a great risk for being sexually assaulted. Women are all to aware that many men only see them as, as you stated, “something that belongs to the several inches of dick” and that many men would be all too willing to “lend several inches.” It is exactly this kind of view of women, and the fact that it can and does lead to rape, that made Hannah decide to get the IUD. I don’t have any idea what you intended to do with your douche-baggy comment, but what you did was reinforce that men only see women as sexual conquests, that men should be feared, and that sexual assault could always be imminent for women. And you did all of this while making outrageous, idiotic, and unfounded assumptions and accusation about a woman you never met.

    2. What. The. Hell.
      Normally I’d just keep on scrolling. But the level of creepy jackassery in that comment is actually impossible to ignore.

    3. I’d like to start off by commending Caspar for his brilliant display of rapey misogyny. There is nothing more entertaining than seeing some poor MRA attacking a woman on the internet because he often cannot get one to spend more than a few seconds with him offline without resorting to pepper spray.

      You read like poorly written Don Draper fanfic as penned by a 14 year old boy who thinks women exist solely to scoff at his sexual advances and prepare sandwiches. The level at which you project your view of women onto Hannah indicates a set of serious cognitive distortions more or less centered around your personal insecurity and that no human capable of thought would consider you a viable sexual partner.

      Caspar’s Lexicon

      Woman = Sandwich maker and inferior to men because erm… uhh.. science

      Hannah = A reminder of all the women who rejected him because he lacks the mental capacity of comatose muskrat.

      Slut = The kind of woman who dates assholes instead of “nice guys” like him.

      Sexual Assault/Rape = His preferred sexual behavior and why he cannot go within 2000 feet of a school or playground.

      Contraceptives = Pesky chemicals that stop him from producing mongoloid rape babies.

      Lesbian = Yet another unattainable woman who angers him by taking another unattainable woman.

      Children = The microhumans who cry upon seeing his face.

      Sexual Independence = women who for reasons he cannot comprehend, enjoy sex. He sees this as dirty because his preferred method of sexual expression is illegal therefore all sex must be wrong because of erm… uhh. bible.

      Predicition: Within a year Caspar will be convicted of parole violation when a police officer catches him masturbating in a Hobby Lobby parking lot while staring longingly at a picture of a female goat. Upon his reentry to the prison population he will be relieved that he is free of the oppressive women that have denied his rapey advances and spent the remainder of his short miserable life playing skin flute for a seven foot tall homosexual rapist named Fluffy who assists him in his less than paleo diet of knuckle sandwiches and man gravy.

      1. Hannah = A reminder of all the women who rejected him because he lacks the mental capacity of comatose muskrat.

        Slut = The kind of woman who dates assholes instead of “nice guys” like him.
        That sounds so much like the Santa Barbara Spree Shooter’s 140-page Manifesto. Are these guys cribbing from each others’ notes or something?
        “Less than paleo diet of knuckle sandwiches and man gravy” — I’ve got to remember that line.

    4. Awwww, look at the poor little MRA sniveling at our door. It’s pitiful. I wonder: what brought it so low? What choices did it make, or, more likely, flee, cowardly and whimpering, from?

      Let’s conjecture:

      I would guess it began this path in the evangelical church, where it encountered others of its ilk that told it to take dominion over its life and home. It was weak and cowardly, so it failed to take dominion over its life, and no doubt blamed this on some liberal conspiracy or another. It’s wife, on the other hand, was not weak. It’s wife, well, she demanded equality. She demanded respect. But the little MRA was too afraid that if it treated her as an equal, she would see it for what it was, deep down.

      So it strayed. It began an affair. Or tried to. It was too cowardly still to actually do much, which made it even more ashamed than it already was, for betraying its wife, for betraying its claimed morality, and for making its word forever worthless. So it twisted in on itself, blaming its strong wife for its own cowardice and betrayal.

      And then she did see it for what it was, and she left it. And now, she’s happier, and that’s something that our pathetic little MRA just can’t stand, because it knows, deep down, that it has absolutely nothing to offer the world beyond pissing on the internet.

      Of course, this is all conjecture. We’ll never know, because once the damage goes this far, a thing like this loses all ability to communicate with any human less twisted than itself. It will perhaps spew more words here or elsewhere, but not anything that means anything, and not anything that will last.

    5. Caspar you exemplify Hannah’s point about a woman being susceptible to pregnancy at any given time. Women are raped by creeps like you every day.

  7. There won’t be more abortions if they successfully ban abortions, which the religious folks seem to be making harder and harder to get.

    1. So you believe that if abortion became illegal that they would no longer happen. That’s so incorrect. There would be back ally abortions and ones done by not so experienced doctors with dangerous conditions.

      Making access to birth control, more education about sex and not cutting federal aid programs. Those are things that will help.

      But also it’s none of our business if a woman truly feels that having an abortion is in her best interest.

      1. I don’t think that’s what I was trying to say but I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you that backroom abortions are no good and I happen to feel that access to abortions and contraceptives should be expanded (not limited). I’m *extremely* liberal in the areas of sex education, contraception and abortion.

        My point was the religious right (and likely others) wants to both stifle a woman’s ability to have access to contraception *and* restrict the ability to obtain an abortion. While I’m sure a certain segment of the population would still obtain abortions even if they were made illegal, I feel that there are a fair number of women who either wouldn’t be able to find the doctor to do it or they would be so expensive many women couldn’t afford them. So, while this case may lead to more abortions if the abortion laws stay the same or were close to what they were maybe 15-20 years ago, I see a trend to strip away those rights. Hell, the Massachusetts no protest zone got struck down by the Supremes this session as well. I think it’s crap.

  8. A few details you appear to ignore: while Farris may have drafted the initial legislation, the bulk of the credit for RFRA goes to the bill’s sponsor (then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY-8)), the Democratic House who passed it unanimously, the Democratic Senate who passed it nearly unanimously, and the Democratic president who signed it into law. Farris doesn’t deserve even a smidgen of the credit you desire to heap upon him.

    Additionally, if you worry that clever lawyers are going to use this to chip away at the ACA, ask yourself: why wasn’t ACA exempted from RFRA as the latter statute allows? Hint: It relates to the Democrats deciding in 2010 to ram the rough-draft ACA that passed the Senate down America’s throat as a result of Scott Brown winning Ted Kennedy’s seat in MA. Instead of responsibly reaching across the aisle and building bipartisan consensus on a better bill, we got the Senate’s shoddy rough-draft instead. Too bad we had to pass the bill to find out what was (and wasn’t) in it.

    Next, the science surrounding IUDs isn’t so black-and-white. See point 11 here:

    Moreover, the statement about China is a false analogy as China doesn’t force HL to directly subsidize any forced abortions there. If I’m wrong on that, please provide a link showing that China has forced HL to do so. Further, recognize that neither dealing with private Chinese firms nor paying Chinese taxes are synonymous with affirmatively supporting the Chinese government or its policies.

    As to the retirement plan: HL doesn’t control how the retirement fund is invested. Point 4 in the link provided above addresses this.

    As to why HL previously provided them: did they know for fact they were providing them at the time HHS announced the regulation? Burden is on you to show they did know. It’s plausible that HL procured the employee coverage unwittingly, or that they procured the coverage at a time when those contraceptives weren’t covered and the insurer simply included them later without informing HL. There’s serliously a lot of ways it could have happened. If your argument is to show they changed their mind solely for the lawsuit, you are going to need more evidence than mere idle speculation about motive and the question “why?”…

    Other than that, nice blog! I enjoyed your co-authored article on Keep being engaging. 🙂

  9. Contraception isn’t just an extra funtimes experimental drug that women sometimes do for kicks when they feel wicked.

    It is for Big Name CELEBRITIES and Loud Crazies who have a very High Profile.

    There is only so much you can do to distance yourself from the Loud Crazies who can’t wait to parade themselves before the media and everybody loudly proclaiming they’re One of You and You’re Just Like Them.

  10. There’s a piece of the ruling that rests on something called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which was pushed into place by none other than Michael Farris of HSLDA, and his then-compatriot, Doug Phillips, formerly of Vision Forum.

    Douggie as in Doug Phillps ESQUIRE (he insists on the title), who cosplayed as an 18th Century Nobleman and/or General Patton while sexually abusing his Houseservant/Handmaid? (Sexually abusing her in a way that didn’t involve Tab A in Slot B, so he could wipe his mouth and say “I never Knew her in the Biblical Sense; I Have Not Sinned”?)

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