Today, Hobby Lobby will try to explain to all the judges on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals why employees of a craft store chain should be denied full insurance coverage of birth control at their bosses’ discretion. Hobby Lobby is the largest of the 31 for-profit companies attempting to challenge the federal birth control benefit, with over 13,000 employees who will be affected by what the judges decide.
This is Hobby Lobby’s fourth try at getting a court to accept its argument that the religious beliefs of a for-profit company should overrule women’s health and that it should not have to cover some forms of birth control. The district court that first denied Hobby Lobby’s request to get out of providing the full birth control benefit said that any burden on its owners’ religious beliefs was too “indirect and attenuated” to meet the legal standard:
“[T]he particular burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [the corporate] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiff[s’] religion.”
The 10th Circuit said “We agree” when it denied Hobby Lobby’s request to temporarily get out of providing the benefit. The U.S. Supreme Court also refused to provide the “extraordinary relief” sought by Hobby Lobby.
Faced with the courts’ refusals so far, Hobby Lobby took action into its own hands. It found a way to push back its plan year to delay compliance with the benefit. That means that May marks the fifth month that Hobby Lobby’s 13,000 employees have worked without receiving the full insurance coverage their labor and toil is earning.
While we don’t know how the court will rule, one thing is certain: when companies refuse to provide their employees with the comprehensive health insurance the law requires, it’s the women who work for them and their families who suffer. The court should recognize that, and honor women’s right to make their own health care decisions, free from their bosses’ interference.