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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

What’s At Stake For Birth Control In Upcoming SCOTUS Decision


The brief filed by 10 medical groups led by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted: “there is a scientific distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient and the scientific record demonstrates that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives covered by the Mandate are abortifacients.”

That’s because the standard medical definition of the start of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants in a woman’s uterus, not when sperm and egg first unite.

But while blocking implantation of a fertilized egg does not fit the medical definition of pregnancy, it does qualify as ending a life for many religious people.

“As far as the science goes, the FDA has said these four drugs and devices can terminate a human embryo,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been representing Hobby Lobby. She noted that the labels for the emergency contraceptives and IUDs say they can prevent implantation.

In the case of one and perhaps both of the emergency contraceptive pills, however, new research suggests they may not work that way at all – they much more likely simply prevent the fertilization of the egg in the first place.

Does whether these products cause abortion matter for purposes of this case?

Probably not. At the heart of the case is what the company owners believe, and no one doubts the sincerity of their views. At issue is whether the owners can exercise those religious objections via their corporations under a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It says the government may not impose a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion unless that burden is the narrowest possible way to further a compelling governmental interest.

The federal government and advocates for the mandate say that corporations cannot exercise religious rights, only individuals may.

The government’s brief in the case said Hobby Lobby and a subsidiary Christian book store, “for-profit corporations conducting commercial enterprises, are not persons exercising religion within the meaning of RFRA.”

What would happen if the court extended religious standing to for-profit corporations?

Fri, Jun 13 2014

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