Monday, June 30, 2014

On Today's Supreme Court Decision




I have written previously on the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) and in that article I referenced the Supreme Court case in which Hobby Lobby, a privately-held business, had sued the United States government for requiring it to include in its employee coverage a certain type of birth control called abortifacients, more commonly known as "morning after pills."

This morning, in a 5-4 decision that split along ideological lines, the Supreme Court rendered its verdict, ruling that privately-held companies whose owners have a religious objection to birth control  cannot be compelled to provide contraceptives to employees. It must be understood that the plaintiffs are not opposed to all forms of birth control, only those that can be used to halt pregnancy after fertilization has occurred.

Women, the Obama administration, and liberals in general are voicing their displeasure with the verdict.  In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that "the exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga (the other plaintiff) would...deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage."

Do you not see the irony here?  Women who favor choice and who have long told the government to mind its own business in these matters found themselves turning to the same government for protection in this case.  I'm sorry pro-choice America, but you cannot have it both ways. 
We want to be left alone unless we can't get what we want.  If we can't get what we want then we want you to get it for us.  

You either want the government to mind its own business or you don't. Perhaps this is an oversimplification of a complicated issue but it seems to me that contraception is a matter of choice and that it should NOT be the responsibility of the employer to provide you with it. If you want birth control, go get it yourself.

Should the government require your employer to provide you with a car so that you can get to work? Should the government require your employer to build you a house so that you have your own single-family residence? Despite the fact that many employers offer these types of perks, they are not required to do so.  A recent survey of large American corporations found that nearly 85% of them already were offering some type of birth control coverage before the ACA mandated it.  Today's decision is not a defeat for employee-sponsored birth control per se, only for after-the-fact birth control in privately-controlled companies whose ownership has a religious objection to it.  The ruling itself is a narrow one but Justice Ginsberg opined that this decision is one of "startling breadth" and  "would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find incompatible with their sincerely held beliefs." I am dubious.
  
I understand that unwanted pregnancies are a tremendous societal burden whose costs  far outweigh the cost of contraceptives. For the record, I am in the camp of those who say that there is no good answer to the issue of abortion. That being the case, you might feel that I should support the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate so that pregnancy can be prevented, right?  Well, as uncomfortable as I am with abortion's unanswerable questions I am even more uncomfortable with the idea of cradle-to-grave government control of our personal lives.

In their majority opinion, several justices offered suggestions for resolving the issue.  Justice Kennedy wrote in a separate opinion that a solution could be arrived at "by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it."  There is no law that I am aware of  that states that insurance companies must participate in the healthcare segment of the insurance business.  They do so only because they believe that they can offer coverage profitably. If the cost of Obamacare coverage supersedes the ability to make a profit, companies will cease participation. This is what critics of the ACA argue eventually will happen.

If that were to happen and insurance companies abandon coverage, the burden will shift to the government.  Again, critics predict that this is what will happen and that healthcare insurance will become a governmental program.  Justice Alito alluded to this when he wrote that if the government wants women to have unrestricted access to contraception, it can just go ahead and pay for it then.

The single-payer system–in this case, the U.S. government–is where Obamacare is headed.  Insurance companies, hobbled by the inability to profitably offer coverage, will opt out of the program and the government will have to step in.  Justice Alito all but said that today.

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