Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SD GOP Calls Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby "A Victory For Religious Freedom." I Call It A Victory For Symbolism Over Substance.

     South Dakota's Republican Party didn't waste much time before whooping it up over the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.  It was a matter of hours before GOP wordsmiths  produced a brief statement calling the case "a victory for religious freedom."  No surprise there, I suppose, considering that the GOP's long held belief in the the rights and sanctity of individuals and their inherent freedom to make their own choices is a bulwark of Republican philosophy.  It's too bad that many of those celebrating Republicans won't uniformly apply the principle of limited government to the rights of individuals making their own decisions about reproductive rights and marriage choices, but on this issue they have cause to be satisfied by the Hobby Lobby decision.
     That the whole thing is kind of a pro-forma scam doesn't detract from the symbolic value of the case.  Julian Sanchez, one of the right-wing's intellectual doyenne's at the Cato Institute, notes that the Hobby Lobby decision doesn't deny the company's employees access to contraceptive care and medications at all.  It doesn't even make them--in the snarky harrumph of so many anti-choice advocates--"pay for their own contraception."  All it does is apply the exemption that religious non-profit corporations like churches, charities and religiously-affiliated hospitals get from paying for employee conctraceptive health care to privately held concerns like Hobby Lobby.  As Sanchez notes, there's an accounting trick involved.  Basically, the guys with the green eyeshades figured out a way to let exempt corporations buy health plans without contraceptive coverage while requiring those insurers to provide the coverage independently to those who want it.  Insurers find that the cost of contraceptive coverage is offset by the savings of lowered maternity costs, so there is no extra cost to the covered employees.
     Neat, hey?  The whole thing lets opposing political views get aired out while effectively giving employees access to the kind of care they want.  More to the satisfaction of Hobby Lobby employees (including any participating owners) who invest in the company's 401k plans, they get to continue to invest in and profit from companies that manufacture and distribute contraceptive devices.  Looks to me like everybody's happy:  Hobby Lobby owners have their religious beliefs reinforced and indemnified even as they and their employees can continue to profit from the contraceptive care industry--and women workers can get all the reproductive care they need via an accounting loophole.  All the while, on a political scale, there's probably an incalculable symbolic value attached to the decision, one that will feed a lot of coffers on both sides of the reproductive rights debate.  I doubt that SCOTUS has ever reached a decision that has created so many winners.


  1. I call it a situation that Republicans think is a victory, but will mobilize millions of pissed-off women to vote against them in upcoming elections. If someone has enough on the ball to mobilize them.

    1. Considering that the women's vote was probably the deciding factor for Obama in '12, I think you're on to something, anonymous. Pubs will crow about this at their peril.