End of Week 110 – Vacation and the Supreme Court (pack a lunch)

I’ve been on vacation for the past week, or that’s what my employer calls it. You wouldn’t know it from my activities. Unfortunately, I’m still not making any progress with my weight. I’ve decided to re-register on MyFitnessPal.com, get new numbers, and really try to keep track of what I eat. I got to the gym twice this week, which is not bad since I had to make myself get up early on vacation to do it.

It hasn’t been a very restful vacation. Monday I went to the gym and took the cat to the vet. Tuesday I had to go to the dentist to get a cap replaced. My gum is still sore today. Wednesday I went to the gym, got new tires on my car, and ordered new eyeglasses. The major stuff was finished by Thursday, but each day (including Thursday and Friday) I had to go into one of the databases from work and keep up on a particular task that relates to a massive project that happens right after I get back next week.

Now, there were also enjoyable things like having lunch with my son each day (since he works in the evenings), and he ran errands with me. I was able to read in the afternoons and evenings – something I don’t get to do very often. I wanted to do more writing, but that didn’t happen. I was in reading mode, and I find that I can’t read when I need to write and can’t write when I feel the need to read. Oh, well, it’s back to work on Monday, and that’s ok.

I’ve been reading a lot of opinions on line about what most refer to as “The Hobby Lobby Decision.” The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled, 5 to 4 (of course), that closely held corporations have the right to refuse to cover contraception with the medical insurance they offer their employees if the decision is based on “sincerely held” religious beliefs (who determines their sincerity?).

If you read the opinions of others on this decision you will realize several things. First, it is a VERY emotional subject – something you probably already know. Second, the general grouping of opinions are that liberals are against the ruling while conservatives support it. There are exceptions, of course, but this is where opinions fall overall.

Third, those who support the decision say the ruling is a victory for religious freedom, and that the ruling is very narrow – that it only applies to certain types of contraception services. I found this last point was heavily emphasized in a lot of opinions. On the flip side, those who disagree with the ruling state it allows employers (rather than doctors) to decide what medical treatment a woman can have, and that it forces employers’ religious beliefs on employees who may not share those beliefs.

Wanting to be well informed, I went online and pulled up the text of the decision as issued by SCOTUS. It was over 90 pages long. I read the syllabus (first six pages) and scanned the other 89 pages. What I learned was that the actual decision is neither as harmful as some think; nor as narrow as others would like to believe.

Those who say employers cannot keep a woman from using contraception – they just don’t have to cover it with insurance – are technically correct. In that sense, the ruling is not as harmful as some think. However, medicine is expensive. What happens if a woman cannot afford to pay the whole cost? Doesn’t that have the same effect? The majority addressed that by saying there are alternatives to insurance coverage. They actually suggested, in the decision, that perhaps the government would pay the entire cost. That’s a laugh.

Those who say the decision is very narrow are looking at the corporations involved, not the actual decision. The three companies involved are objecting to covering only four specific methods of contraception that they think act like abortion. However, the majority could not address the case that way since they are not doctors. They could not separate those four items from all the other methods of contraception. They were required to address the law, so they used “the contraception mandate” of the Affordable Care Act and ruled it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. So, what happens if a closely held for-profit company does not want to cover something as established as “the Pill”? Suddenly, the decision isn’t so narrow, is it? By addressing “the contraception mandate” the majority has included all forms of contraception, not just the four originally in question.

The majority went to some trouble to state that the decision does not extend to other medical services (they used vaccinations and blood transfusions as examples). This sounds like wishful thinking on their part. They wrote the majority opinion as narrowly as they could (inadequate as it is), and are now really, REALLY hoping no one else comes before them to challenge anything else using this same argument. We’ll see…

So, as usual, the truth about a polarizing issue is not to be found in all the heated opinions of the battling opponents. It lies somewhere in the middle. Personally, I do not agree with the ruling, but what I see is a group of five conservative men who addressed the law the best way they thought they could, and in the process created a potential, if unintentional, Pandora’s Box.

Until next week….

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