Editor’s note. The following is National Right to Life’s analysis of Monday’s Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
The ruling provides a modest victory for religious conscience rights. However, as explained further below, the ruling does not truly correct any of the major abortion-expanding problems created by Obamacare.
The five-justice majority rejected the Obama Administration’s attempt to force family-owned for-profit corporations to directly purchase health insurance covering certain drugs and devices that violate the employer’s religious and moral beliefs. The Court held that this application of a provision of Obamacare violates a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Court’s majority recognized the gravity of the moral and religious objections raised by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties in this case.
However, the Court left open the possibility that those objections might be satisfactorily resolved by a government mandate (“accommodation”) that these employers’ insurance carriers pay directly for the same drugs and devices. This leaves unresolved the status of many entities (including religiously affiliated schools, charities, and hospitals) with sincere religiously based objections to providing specific drugs and devices, who regard a federal mandate that requires them to take action to require their insurance carrier to carry out the same ends as differing only in form and not in substance from the original mandate.
Moreover, regardless of how the scope of the “accommodation” is defined by future rulemaking and litigation, it is difficult to discern what would prevent HHS from issuing a further expansion of its “preventive services” mandate to require that most employers also provide coverage for surgical abortions, or for doctor-prescribed suicide, that would be just as expansive as the contraceptive mandate.
In short, even with respect only to the “preventive services” component of Obamacare, the Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby comes nowhere near to correcting the heart of the problem, which is the overly expansive authority that the Obamacare law itself provides to HHS to define “preventive services.” The other major abortion-expanding provisions of Obamacare, including the massive tax subsidies that will assist millions of Americans to purchase health plans that cover elective abortion, were not even issues in the cases just decided.
Only comprehensive legislative reform can cure the multiple abortion-expanding components of Obamacare – and such reform can only be accomplished with new leadership in the U.S. Senate and in the White House.
During the congressional debate over Obamacare, National Right to Life continuously warned against the abortion-expanding and health care rationing provisions of the bill. An archive of documents related to the abortion-expanding provisions of Obamacare is available here.
In March, National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics issued a report on how Obamacare is rationing access to life-preserving medical treatment, “The Affordable Care Act and Health Care Access in the United States” which is available here (with other supporting materials).