Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What the Hobby Lobby Decision Really Was [Clinton Wilcox]

Pro-choice bloggers have been generally confused regarding the recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold their religious freedom by not forcing them to provide abortifacient contraceptives. They think that this ruling has given religious employs carte blanche to mistreat their employees, or to oppress them, or all manner of silly things. NARAL alleged this gives employers a right to "interfere" in their employees' medical decisions. What they don't seem to understand is that Hobby Lobby is still providing 16 different forms of contraceptives to their employers. The ones they are no longer forced to provide, since it goes against their deeply held religious convictions, are contraceptives that cause an early abortion. But why let facts get in the way of a rhetorical argument?

Now the Satanist Church is getting in on the action. They're claiming that this ruling by the Supreme Court makes them "exempt" from state-mandated informed consent laws because they claim the material they must provide contains inaccurate and scientifically-misleading information. Ironically, in a letter you can download from their website, they claim that part of their religious beliefs are: "My inviolable body includes any fetal or embryonic tissue I carry so long as that tissue is unable to survive outside my body as an independent human being." How can someone who claims that informed-consent laws are scientifically misleading believe something like this? The "fetal tissue" a woman carries are not a part of her body, but the body of another, separate, whole human being. This truly is a religious belief, not a scientifically-accurate one. And if the Supreme Court can force a pregnant woman to undergo a blood transfusion for the good of her unborn child, you can't claim that abortion should be allowed because of "deeply held religious beliefs" since another human being is being harmed. Similarly, if someone's religion allowed for child sacrifice of two-year-old children, this also could not be allowed under religious freedom.

The Satanist church is just the latest in a long line of scientifically illiterate pro-choice advocates, trying to protect their "right" to abortion on demand. Some have argued that this decision would allow religious employers not to cover life-saving treatments like blood transfusions if a religious employer didn't believe in them. But this is just fear mongering. Blood transfusions are a life-saving medical treatment, whereas abortions are a procedure that takes the life of an innocent human being. Let's try to leave fear mongering out of the abortion debate, and focus on the real issue: are the unborn human beings deserving of protection? The answer, as I have time and again argued, is yes.


  1. I don't think that this ever was about religious freedom. It was about life. Life comes before freedom whether that freedom is considered religious or not.

    1. Well, the reason that it was about religious freedom was because it went against the religious freedom of the owners of Hobby Lobby to provide contraceptives that killed an unborn child. If it was really about life, the Supreme Court would outlaw abortion.

  2. I disagree. I think the Hobby Lobby case does mean that religious employers don't have to cover blood transfusions. Employees can buy supplemental insurance or work for someone else. Consider the fact that employers don't have to provide insurance at all so how is it bad for them to refuse to cover some things?

    While i disagree with the religious view regarding blood transfusions, employers shouldn't be forced to pay for something which they sincerely believe is wrong.

    1. You can disagree, but in the ruling itself it was stated that this won't allow business owners to stop providing blood transfusions. It's a false analogy -- blood transfusions are a life-saving medical procedure. There have even been cases in which a pregnant Jehovah's Witness woman was forced to undergo a blood transfusion to save her unborn child's life. Comparing blood transfusions with abortifacients is really comparing apples with oranges.

  3. The Satanists are wrong because it's not against their religion to get a pamphlet, even when they find the contents of the pamphlet objectionable. No one is forcing them to break their religious conviction by opening the pamphlet and reading it. They're free to throw the pamphlet in the trash.

  4. The Hobby Lobby decision covers a tiny percentage of birth control, a tiny percentage of employers, and passed by the skin of its teeth (5-4). I wouldn't expect these exceptions to last.

    On another note, let me tell you why I wish Hobby Lobby lost. With 3000 unborn children dying a day, I don't want people to be able to wash their hands of this and have clean consciences. I want abortion to cause a problem for them.

    1. So if I understand you correctly, you want women to be able to continue to procure abortions so it can cause a problem for them? Wouldn't you rather no unborn children die and we continue to get the word out? I'm not sure what you mean by having clean consciences. What this means is that Hobby Lobby will not be forced to provide contraceptives that cause an early abortion. I consider this to be a good thing.

  5. Well, that's the thing. Women still get the abortions, but the financing will be rearranged in a way so that Hobby Lobby owner's can have clear consciences. So, the baby dies, but the business owners will be able to feel better because they aren't involved in paying for it.

    It's similar to when the partial-birth abortion ban was passed. The baby (and millions others) will still die, but at least American public can "feel better" that the process isn't as gruesome.

    But we don't want Americans to feel better about abortion. We want Americans to feel absolutely horrible about abortion. For abortion to be repulsive. Because that's how this battle gets won. That's how tides starts to turn, and how we enact real, sweeping pro-life laws, instead of ones that concentrate on 0.1% of cases, and merely change administrative procedure.

    1. So you'd rather make Hobby Lobby pay for abortions in an attempt to spur them into action? That seems pretty oppressive to me. Also, how do you know the owners of Hobby Lobby don't do more to speak out against abortion?

      I also don't think you're read the partial-birth abortion ban correctly. First, the fact that it was even on the table to ban got the entire nation talking about abortion. Second, we should not let a gruesome procedure continue in a vain attempt to spur more people on to action. The end does not justify the means. That's why we have pro-life people out there educating others. We can end abortion without forcing people to pay for them, or without allowing all forms of abortion to continue. Why allow the pro-choice side to win until we can finally get a decisive victory? Social change is enacted step by step, not all at once.

    2. Let me try something different. I want you to pretend for a second that you are radically "pro-choice", and that you are the head of some fictional government committee that decides abortion policy. Your goal is to keep abortion legal and accessible. You know that if the tide of opinion turns where people reject abortion as intolerable, you will be removed from office and abortion will become illegal. Given that, which do you think is the better policy to keep abortion legal by selling abortion as tolerable to the American people:

      Plan A) Allow most types of abortion, but have sensible restrictions here and there on the most gruesome and objectionable parts. For example, ban partial-birth abortion, limit late term abortion, have parental notification, and allow people to keep their hands clean by never having to pay for other people's abortions.

      Plan B) Allow every type of abortion, with absolutely no restrictions. Tell the American people, "Oh you don't like partial-birth abortion? Sorry, her body, her choice. She can get one, and you're going to pay for it".

    3. Well, the ones in Canada go with B and it seems to be working for them. As of 2014, there are no legal restrictions on abortion at all (save one province that refuses to fund them with taxpayer money) and public opinion is as pro-choice as ever.

      The ones in America go with B as well, but the pro-life movement has managed to paint them into a corner by forcing them to confront the hard questions and demonstrate the logical conclusions of their position. From here, they go incrementally (ie, why is a partial-birth abortion worse than a standard D&E abortion? Why is an abortion at 24 weeks wrong but one at 20 weeks isn't? etc). Public opinion has shifted in favour of the pro-life position.

      More on the mark would be to pretend for a second that you're both pro-life and rational. The Supreme Court, the White House, and the Senate are all controlled by pro-choice advocates, and they have much more money than you do, but you have allies in many of the state legislatures. You can make a huge step toward making abortion illegal if you manage to take all three of those institutions. Huge majorities of Americans favour abortion in some cases. Also, your political climate is one where soundbites and gaffes like "legitimate rape", "binders full of women", and "you didn't build that" get much more attention than the substance of the issues. The most prominent pro-choice organizations vehemently oppose any restrictions on abortion. Given that, which do you think is a better strategy to make abortion illegal and intolerable to the American people:

      Plan A) Work toward restricting whatever types of abortion you can, while your opponents self-destruct and show the nation their most radical views - allowing your allies to claim the moral high ground and win support.

      Plan B) Support only state-level personhood measures or a federal constitutional amendment making all abortions illegal (including cases of rape and incest). All the while leaving all abortions legal until that happens. So the law continues to say "Oh you don't like partial-birth abortion? Sorry, her body, her choice. She can get one, and you're going to pay for it".

    4. Actually most Western countries have "sensible" restrictions against abortion. It's not that easy to get a third (or even a second) trimester abortion in much of Europe. The abortion rate is still very high, but they've got their restrictions to make people feel better. One advantage that the pro-life movement has is that it's accomplished very little, and hasn't got much to lose. We can afford to take risky bets. I say, let's bet it all. Either abortion will be completely unrestricted, or it will be completely illegal.

    5. In Western Europe, the restrictions vary widely from country to country. Speaking very broadly, abortion is tax-funded but illegal after a certain point with exceptions for the mother's health. But the devil is in the details - for example in the U.K. (which technically only allows abortion for maternal health), the policy is effectively abortion on demand up until 24 weeks (or even up to birth in some cases, such as where the baby is disabled). In Italy (which explicitly allows abortion on demand throughout the first trimester), it's still very difficult to get one because most doctors refuse to do them. The overall abortion rate in Western Europe as a whole is in fact lower than the abortion rate in the U.S.

      I don't think it's at all obvious that Europe tolerates abortion simply because it's more regulated than in America. In addition to the counterexample of Canada I presented above, there are other reasons why there isn't much of a push to end abortion in Europe. For one thing, the pro-life movement has not focused much on changing the laws or public opinion (instead being based strictly on pregnancy resource centres - which are important, but not sufficient to actually end abortion). Until 2005, France didn't even have an annual pro-life march. The American pro-life movement, on the other hand, originated out of (mostly Catholic) opposition to the Vietnam War (which was unique in its own right - social reform movements in America are quite different from on the other side of the Atlantic). Fortunately, this situation is slowly changing and we are starting to see more pro-life activism outside the U.S. It will be interesting to see what will happen.

      It doesn't matter whether you think the pro-life movement has accomplished "very little", or a lot. What matters is whether or not throwing everything behind a Hail Mary pass will benefit the pro-life cause more than any other course of action (that is, maximize the number of babies saved and minimize the time it takes to end abortion). I don't have reason to think this is true.

  6. I agree with your sentiment, Clinton.

    People, at least it seems, these days are looking for a panacea. A "one shot" win, that ends a fight. Some miracle that will completely and totally derail their opponent.

    It just isn't that easy.

    Anything that's ever been successful, in regards to social changes, is something that happens gradually. Not always as the proverbial snail's pace, but not done in a single day either.

    It's good people want to end such a barbaric action as abortion, but I think there are still plenty who are not seeing the big picture...that this takes time, and that we should seek the small victories just as much as the large ones.

    1. Here's the other thing. For every one of these very minor victories we score, the "pro-choice" movement scores a major victory. They won the right to bring RU-486 into the US. In 2001, only 1% of abortions were done with medication. Now it's 17%. And it's available all over the place. It's not like you need to go to Planned Parenthood to get it. Other pills such as emergency contraception are as cheap as a paperback novel and as widely available as the nearest CVS. Abortions are no longer a service which are limited to a few spots. The horses have already escaped and we're barricading the barn door.

      And in case anyone missed it, the US just passed a sweeping national health care law. If you don't understand the inheritant bad implications that has for the pro-life movement, then...

    2. I wouldn't call them "very minor victories". Closing all but six of the abortion clinics in the second-biggest state seems pretty major. Regarding RU-486, it slowed down the decline in number of abortion clinics. However, it was far from the game-changer abortion proponents expected it to be. They were hoping for robo-Skype abortions on every street corner, but this effort fell flat. Several states have put the brakes on chemical abortion just by requiring abortionists to comply with the FDA guidelines. As for "other pills", only Plan B (which doesn't cause an abortion) is available OTC. Ella requires a doctor's prescription, only works for up to 5 days after intercourse, and (because of the Hobby Lobby decision) will not be a part of every employee's health coverage.

      Obamacare was a victory for the other side, but the extent to which it would expand abortion is debatable (and its pro-abortion provisions have been fully neutralized in several states).

    3. Actually, they are very minor victories. Closing an abortion clinic? So like a woman's going to say, "wow, that clinic is a 60-minute drive. I guess I'll just have the kid." And at the same time the other side is making pills and other easy means widely available. And the partial-birth abortion victory? Do you think that saves the baby? No, it just says they have to find another way to kill it.

      And it's a straw-man to say I'm just asking for a hail-mary pass to win. I realize it's a long process. But are these baby-steps helping us? Suppose partial birth abortion were still legal. In our age of the Internet and social media, imagine what would happen if a video of one got uploaded and shared around the Internet. Even your hard-core pro-aborts will admit partial-birth abortion is barbaric. You never know what impressionable young mind would see this. A future judge or president? When you show a spade to be a spade, you've pretty much won -- it's just a matter of time until you collect the winnings. But we don't take this approach. When the sheep's skin slips of the wolf that is abortion, we do everything we can to put the sheep's skin right back on.

    4. How many clinics do we have to close before you'd consider it a significant victory? If closing 36 (that's thirty-six, not one) in the second-biggest state is only a minor victory, what about closing every abortion clinic in the entire country? That won't stop all of the abortions either - recall that women can travel to another country or seek an illegal one. On the other hand, we can think at the margin and realize that if even one baby is spared from abortion because a certain clinic gets shut down (which is not unreasonable), it's certainly a significant victory for that baby (and the pro-life cause, which aims to save babies from abortion).

      I addressed pills and other means in my previous post - pro-lifers are, for the most part, successfully resisting efforts to push chemical abortions (some of which aren't even applicable except very early in the pregnancy). Just today, a judge in Iowa ruled in favour of shutting down Planned Parenthood's robo-Skype abortions.

      The partial-birth abortion victory did not directly save any babies, I'll give you that. But it was still a crucial legal and political victory. In the Supreme Court, the majority of the justices weakened the legal precedent set by Roe and reaffirmed by Casey by ruling that there are some abortions so horrible they can be banned without exception for the mother's health (even pre-viability). Americans were shown what an abortion actually does to a late-term baby, and said "no, we don't want this to be legal". Pro-lifers successfully made the unborn the centre of the debate - and polls show a huge, permanent shift toward pro-life sentiment corresponding with the partial-birth abortion debate. Near the end of the 1990s, the prevailing attitude on both sides was that pro-life movement was dead and would soon cease to be relevant. The partial-birth abortion ban proved that to be a myth.

      I'm sure most hardcore abortion proponents know that partial-birth abortion is barbaric. Warren Hern's staff report having nightmares about the fetuses they helped kill through traditional D&E - a different method but the same point applies. However, the abortion lobby fought tooth and nail against the ban. President Clinton vetoed it twice, Planned Parenthood et al held a massive march in Washington D.C. to protest it, and Leroy Carhart himself took it to the Supreme Court. They fought and died on that hill, and their credibility was permanently tarnished.

      I did not mean to strawman you, and I apologize if I did. So what is your plan if not going for a Hail Mary pass? You wrote this in your August 14 post:

      "We can afford to take risky bets. I say, let's bet it all. Either abortion will be completely unrestricted, or it will be completely illegal."

      That is the very definition of a Hail Mary pass!

      I don't agree that "when the sheep's skin slips of the wolf that is abortion, we do everything we can to put the sheep's skin right back on". There are many rational pro-life groups (ie CBR, Justice for All, Abort73, Created Equal, Priests for Life, and LTI itself) that use abortion videos and abortion victim photography (most of which, by the way, depicts first-trimester abortion), yet don't oppose incremental pro-life legislation. When used correctly, they can (and do) get fantastic results.


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