Senate liberals–a mix of almost all Democrats and a few Republicans–missed by a hair last week in a bid to overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled unconstitutional the Obama administration’s heavy-handed requirement that business owners provide abortion services for employees, even in violation of their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.
A Democratic bill to reverse the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision narrowly failed in the Senate on Wednesday, but it sparked more contentious debate over contraception and religious freedom that both sides hope will mobilize their voters in November.
The bill in effect says a 1993 religious freedom law at the heart of the Hobby Lobby case doesn’t apply to legally required health benefits. The Supreme Court had cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in ruling that certain for-profit businesses can on religious grounds be exempted from the Obamacare requirement that the health plans they offer workers include FDA-approved birth control with no co-pays.
The procedural vote to take up the bill failed 56-43, four short of the 60 votes needed. Three Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) of Maine, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) of Illinois and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) of Alaska, joined the Democrats in support of the measure sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (D-Wash).
The fact that Senate liberals came so close to overturning the Hobby Lobby decision is a good indication that the left has been hard at work “framing” the debate. (Were you following the hysteria flying across the Twittersphere after the decision came down?) And, per usual, they’ve done it by fanning the flames of discontent with distortions about what the law states, what the Court ruled, and what the ruling means.
Let’s take them one by one.
Distortion 1: The Hobby Lobby decision is part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to undermine the rights of women.
Fact: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provided the basis for the Supreme Court ruling, was introduced by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and current Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It passed the Democrat-controlled House by voice vote and sailed through the Democrat-controlled Senate 97-3. President Clinton, a Democrat, signed the bill into law. If you don’t like the decision, you can blame the left, right and centrists, as politicians from every political persuasion voted in favor of this legislation.
Distortion 2: The Supreme Court ruled that employers can deny women access to contraceptive services and health care.
Fact: This is simply not true. As described by Republican Senators Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) in an excellent op-ed they penned for The Wall Street Journal: “Contrary to the misleading rhetoric, the Hobby Lobby ruling does not take away women’s access to birth control. No employee is prohibited from purchasing any Food and Drug Administration-approved drug or device, and contraception remains readily available and accessible for all women nationwide.”
“In the Hobby Lobby case, the company’s owners–the Green family–offered healthcare plans that provide coverage for 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices, including birth control pills, required under the Affordable Care Act.”
Distortion 3: With this ruling, employers can deny health care to employees by simply invoking “religious freedom” without any justification.
Fact: Justice Samuel Alito states in his majority opinion, “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs.” In other words, this decision can’t be applied willy nilly under the general principle of religious freedom. There must be a legitimate claim. In the case of the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, they had a religious objection to abortion, and 4 of the 20 contraceptive services at issue are abortifacients. The effort to force them to provide such services, the Court ruled, represented a legitimate infringement on their religious liberties.
Distortion 4: The nation is unified in its opposition to the Hobby Lobby decision and would support an attempt by Congress to overturn it.
Fact: According to a Rasmussen poll, the American people support the Supreme Court decision by a ten-point margin. In a Huffington Post/YouGov poll, the margin was slimmer at 4 points but still in favor of the decision.
The Left is shrill and vocal and expert at the art of making their unpopular opinions seem popular. But the fact remains, a plurality supports the Supreme Court’s defense of religious liberties in the Hobby Lobby case. And this is the sound and reasonable position to take.
As we argued in our amicus brief filed with the High Court on behalf of Hobby Lobby, the owners of the company, any company, should not have to choose between “fidelity to [their] faith or the imposition of unimaginable fines.” The brief also reminds the Court of James Madison’s words in The Federalist Papers: “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for.”
You can expect the distortions, and this fight, to continue. According to our friends at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who successfully represented the courageous Green family against President Obama’s despotism, there are many more court battles ahead. There at least 100 cases now weaving their way through the federal courts, including one from Little Sisters of the Poor:
In accordance with their faith, they uphold the unique, inviolable dignity of all human life, especially those deemed weak or, to some, “worthless” in society. The federal government’s contraception and abortion mandate, however, forces the Little Sisters to provide services that destroy human life, contradicting their very mission to respect it.
The Obama administration and their fanatic allies would see these nuns and the religious freedom of millions of Americans crushed. Remember, no abortifacient or abortion mandate was passed by Congress in Obamacare. This anti-Church mandate is a creature solely of Obama’s regulators, working in league with the pro-abortion lobby.
In the meantime, we should celebrate the legal victory. A battle has been won in the defense of the First Amendment right to religious freedom. The Obama administration has been waging war on several fronts against the Christian church. This Obama assault, through Obamacare, was without modern precedent. While girding for future battles, let’s applaud the High Court’s decision to repel the administration’s overreach, which would have had Americans either violate their consciences or lose their livelihoods.