KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints On Challenge To Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

The New York Times: Crying Wolf On Religious Liberty
This week, the owners of two secular, for-profit corporations will ask the Supreme Court to take a radical turn and allow them to impose their religious views on their employees — by refusing to permit them contraceptive coverage as required under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court has consistently resisted claims for religious exemptions from laws that are neutral and apply broadly when the exemptions would significantly harm other people, as this one would. To approve it would flout the First Amendment, which forbids government from favoring one religion over another — or over nonbelievers (3/22).

The Washington Post: If The Contraceptive Mandate Passes, It Will Ruin A Core U.S. Ideology 
Religion is a way of life. ... The outcome of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby will affect every American because any religion allowed to be practiced only inside a house of worship, and not in the day-to-day business of life, is a worthless faith (Rev. Rick Warren, 3/21).

The Washington Post: Contraception As A Test Of Equality
More than half of all American women experience an unintended pregnancy, according to a 2008 study, and 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion. Improved access to the most reliable methods of contraception would significantly reduce both unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. For all women, denying practical access to the method of contraception that is right for their health and life circumstances, as well as the well-being of their families, can represent a serious incursion into their individual moral autonomy (Walter Dellinger, 3/23). 

USA Today: Obamacare Shackles Religious Freedom
Legal niceties aside, Hobby Lobby is, at bottom, the five Green family members. They are its nerve center and soul. They determine, with accountability only to and among themselves, whether to turn aside substantial profits by closing the doors of their 600 stores on Sundays; to greet Hobby Lobby patrons with strains of Christian music; to advertise Christian holidays (Ken Starr, 3/23).

USA Today: Religion Case Threat To Worker Rights
Should a company have the right to refuse to hire certain female employees if the owners have religious objections to mothers working outside the home? Or can a company's owners fire pregnant employees because the owners find their presence distracting? Many federal and state laws now prohibit such blatant forms of discrimination against women. ... This is not the first time in our country's history that religion has been used in an effort to thwart civil rights and workers' rights laws. Owners of hotels and other businesses once claimed that forcing them to open their doors to mixed-race couples violated their religious liberty (Mary Kay Henry (SEIU) and Lee Saunders (AFSCME), 3/23). 

USA Today: Obamacare Challenge Could Empower Discriminators
In fact, birth control prevents pregnancy from happening in the first place, and nearly 60% of women who use the birth control pill also use it for other medical reasons, like managing migraines and acne. As a matter of law, the corporations are asking the Court to dramatically upend the balance we've struck for generations to protect everyone's rights and liberties. In fact, this case would mark the first time in history that corporations would be given the right to exercise religion like people or churches do (Cecile Richards and Chad Griffin, 3/23).

USA Today: For-Profit Doesn't Mean No Conscience
The administration has effectively told the Supreme Court that for-profit companies have no right to act on moral convictions the government opposes. They are about profits. That position is deeply mistaken. For one thing, it ignores the law. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act extends religious liberty to corporations without regard to their for-profit and non-profit status. More important, the administration's position betrays a remarkably cramped view of free enterprise (Joshua Hawley, 3/23). 

In another legal case -

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Latest Legal Challenge
Unlike the challenge to the individual insurance mandate, Halbig v. Sebelius involves no great questions of constitutional interpretation. ... The Affordable Care Act—at least the version that passed in 2010—instructed the states to establish insurance exchanges, and if they didn't, the Health and Human Services Department was authorized to build federal exchanges. The law says that subsidies will be available only to people who enroll "through an Exchange established by the State." The question in Halbig is whether these taxpayer subsidies can be distributed through the federal exchanges, as the Administration insists (3/23).

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