- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2014

An opinion piece published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association argues the Supreme Court’s willingness to defend “corporate personhood” — exemplified in its Hobby Lobby decision on birth control and company health plans — is “becoming a major impediment to public health regulation.”

A divided court ruled last month that closely held corporations do not have to insure birth control if it violates their moral beliefs, even though a rule tied to Obamacare mandated employers to cover 20 FDA-approved contraceptives at no cost to female employees.

The all-male majority relied on a 1993 religious-freedom law to decide the government’s mandate was too much of a burden and that women could obtain contraceptives through other means.

Democrats have vowed to reverse the ruling legislatively, saying it an attack on women’s health, while opponents of the mandate said the decision was a win for religious liberty.

The new journal piece by Lawrence O. Gostin, of Georgetown University Law Center, argues the ruling leaves much to be desired.

“If a Supreme Court decision is supposed to give a measure of legal certainty, Hobby Lobby does anything but that,” he wrote. “Currently some 50 cases are pending in the courts, and the Court’s decision leaves considerable ambiguity: do large corporations have religious freedoms, is HHS’ accommodation acceptable, and does the decision apply to medical services beyond contraception?”

Mr. Gostin says it is unclear what a “closely held” corporation is, exactly, and what they may object to.

“The Court has stressed corporate rights, often to the detriment of individuals,” he wrote. “Religious beliefs, moreover, extend beyond abortion—for example, opposing vaccinations, blood transfusions, or psychotropic drugs or objecting to providing health care coverage to same-sex spouses.”

Some plaintiffs, in the dozens of cases pending in courts around the country, objected to all forms of contraception.

But the plaintiffs before the Supreme Court, the Hobby Lobby crafts chain based in Oklahoma and Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania, objected specifically to insuring types of birth control they equate with abortion, such as morning-after pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

In his piece, Mr. Gostin takes issue with the science behind even the more limited complaints before the high court.

“The 4 contraceptive methods to which they objected avert pregnancy by delaying or preventing ovulation,” he wrote. “Scientific evidence does not support the claim that emergency contraception works by preventing implantation. The corporate owners remained free to practice their religion and speak out against contraception. They would play no part in the decision to use contraception, which is solely a matter for the woman and her physician.”

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