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Hobby Lobby thoughts

The gang over at Facebook got me talking about the recent "Hobby Lobby" case, and I promised an explanation of why I disagreed with the decision. Not necessarily as a lawyer; I'm not one, though I play one on TV hang around quite a few and try to listen to what they say. Still, this is less about what the law allows and more about how I think things should be from an ethical or philosophical basis.

And, me being me, it quickly grew out of hand. Just why I can't pound out 4,000 words of fic in a night, I'm not sure. But for the interested, have this ex-philosopher's thoughts on the issues in that court case. I'm trying to keep this blog more personal + fannish but feel free to comment here or there, whichever is more convenient.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 2nd, 2014 08:59 pm (UTC)
There are all sorts of specific points I have seen raised all over the place - including that some of the contraceptives in question are not only prescribed as contraceptives, but for other medical reasons (IUDs, for example, can apparently be prescribed to lighten periods in women whose heavy periods are making them dangerously anaemic, and who might for whatever reason be unsuitable for hormonal treatment for that issue) and that it is entirely inappropriate for an employer to, effectively, seek to interfere in the clinical decision-making of a medical professional with regard to their patient.

Ultimately, from a European perspective, there are two elements to the case which appear very characteristic to us (well, me) of the contemporary US and which feel utterly alien:

1) It's no business whatever of any employer's to interfere in their employee's health care - and therefore, it seems to me, it shouldn't be required of employers directly to fund their employees' health care. What is it about the US which makes the idea of taxpayer-funded universal health care provision such anathema? We live in democracies, we pay our taxes, we vote for parties whose programmes (as near as we can) will use our taxes to fund the sort of society we want to live in. As I said in a comment on someone else's thread, my taxes fund lots of things I'm very happy about (universal schooling, health care) and some things my personal beliefs might be very opposed to (nuclear missiles, tax breaks for corporations) but I don't get to go to the Supreme Court and object to the taxes I don't like; I get to vote.

2) Personal religious belief has absolutely no business dictating the health care decisions or options (or, indeed, any kind of life decisions or options) of anybody other than the individuals holding those beliefs. We're wrestling with this one in the realm of education in the UK currently - around faith schools vs secular education, what the state should and should not fund, and so on, currently with a lot of hoohaa about Islam - but the idea that anyone's religious beliefs should determine how others are educated, or given health care, tends to be met with either bafflement or looked on as dangerous religious fundamentalism
Jul. 2nd, 2014 10:28 pm (UTC)
Please understand that I'm saying this as an American-who-understands-how-(some)-Americans-think, not someone who agrees with it. :-) I agree with you, the current system is messed up. (I could use stronger language.) It is inefficient and frustrating and inhumane.

But I think there are a couple of things going on. Perhaps more than anything, there's a lot of fear that there's not enough healthcare to go around. There's this idea you see that if we give healthcare to everyone then there won't be the same standard or even quantity of care available for me and those people I care most specifically for. (Which... yeah, I could go into how messed up that is, particularly from a Christian perspective, but I won't.) There's also a fear, I think, that "those people" (whomever they are) want to take what I (whoever I am) have earned, and that the government is interested in spreading the wealth around. I do see where that fear comes from because American history is so built on competing groups with their competing grudges, it's the melting pot syndrome. But I think there is a fear that some people are lazy and moochers and will take away services from the people who have earned them and deserve them and that you care most about receiving them. The whole idea of the rugged individualist providing for his own family is really woven into the American psyche, and I think a lot of people find it very unsettling to think that they are simultaneously responsible for people in general and subject to society's wellbeing as a whole. It goes against this idea that we can and should take care of ourselves.

(God, sometimes I hate this country. Really. I want the stability and experience necessary to maybe emigrate to a sane society, like Canada or the UK or Germany. But that's a conversation for another day, I think.)

Playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, I think that people in favor of Hobby Lobby et al would point out that they aren't saying those employees don't have a right to birth control; what they are denying is that they, the insurance-providers, have an obligation to fund it. And on some level I can appreciate that point, because there are things that I believe are wrong not only for me to do but for me to enable other people to do. For instance, if I think it's wrong to drink excessively (I do), I would think it's wrong to do that myself - but also to do something that enabled someone else to do that, like just giving money rather than offering to buy food for the panhandler I've seen drunk in my neighborhood. So working within the framework of Hobby Lobby's value system, if I believed using a drug that kept an embryo from implanting was a kind of murder, I would think it would be immoral to use the drug but also to be part of the chain of events that let someone else use it.

That's why I think it's so important that it's not the company owners paying for the health care, it's the corporations (who in this case at least have no religious identity so no religion their employers would expect would impact their actions). Of course it would be much better to have NHS-style healthcare availability for everyone where you just were expected to pay your taxes and there was no greenlighting of what health services particular employees needed. More freedom for all IMO, to say nothing of better outcomes. But that seems like a fool's hope in these fifty states.

... but I'm rambling. I haven't eaten all day and suspect I need to before I make any kind of sense. :-)
Jul. 3rd, 2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
Playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, I think that people in favor of Hobby Lobby et al would point out that they aren't saying those employees don't have a right to birth control; what they are denying is that they, the insurance-providers, have an obligation to fund it.

And I do, bizarrely, have some sympathy with how it might feel to directly be funding something which you actively believe is harmful. Which goes right back to why healthcare for employees shouldn't be the direct financial responsibility of employers but should be universally funded through taxation. Let's face it, we all pay for things via taxation that we'd rather not (I imagine plenty of American taxpayers would rather not be funding military adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq, for starters...) but there's a distance to it because we don't actually have the choice to opt out.

The point about the rugged pioneer mentality is I think probably the UK cliche assumption about Americans - so it's interesting to have it confirmed! I think over here that mindset tends to be associated with Mrs Thatcher's famous "there is no such thing as society" quote, which is still perceived as an excuse for appalling social division, inequality and callous I'm-all-right-Jackism - we do still have a notion of society as a whole, just about...
Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:01 pm (UTC)
These days I often find myself wishing that employer-provided insurance no longer existed. That everyone went through the marketplace. Not only would it avoid this sort of issue, it would also improve individual coverage, IMO.

N's a state employee, and so gets state-negotiated insurance. If the state added the cost of the insurance to her paycheck, rather than paying the insurance company directly, she could get vastly better insurance. (This information is based on what COBRA charged me to get the same plan after I got laid off, and on what I have now, for less $$.) So now that ACA is a reality, the state is literally spending more for less than employees could get on their own.
Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC)
I definitely hear you on that one. I can't speak to the economics, but from a freedom perspective I've often thought everyone would be better off if the patient had as few people as possible tied up in paying for their health care - gives the patient the most choice possible, obviously, but also doesn't make third parties like the employers feel like they're subsidizing something they disapprove of. And of course you don't have people tied down to jobs because of a need for healthcare insurance, which I read a study a while back saying that would be good for the economy because it would make entrepreneurship more viable.

Anywho, I'm 100% with you on this.

And now that I think of it, I will be getting better coverage for less cost when my student insurance runs out in August and I get a subsidized plan through the exchanges, even if I have a job by then that pays the salary most do but doesn't offer insurance. I can't speak to the state's finances, but the exchange actually will be better for me. Then again, student plans are tied to, you know, students, with all the high-risk costs that lifestyle brings with it.
Jul. 4th, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
1. We'd all be better off if we ditched our current system in favor of either a government-run single payer system, or a system like Germany's where people purchase their health insurance directly from highly-regulated insurance companies (and the government helps with the costs if you're poor). Alas, I don't see that happening any time soon - but this case shows why it should.

2. How can a for-profit corporation (even a closely held one) have any religious beliefs other than membership in the Church of Let's Make Money? The whole POINT of incorporation is to create a business entity which is legally entirely separate from the shareholder(s). Seems the Greens want to have their cake and eat it, too: Hobby Lobby Inc. is an entirely separate entity from them when it benefits them (limited liability in the case of torts or bankruptcy), but suddenly becomes all-but-indistinguishable from them when the law requires Hobby Lobby Inc. to do something which conflicts with the Greens' religious beliefs. Why should they be allowed to have it both ways? There SHOULD be drawbacks to incorporation as well as benefits!
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