With A Stroke Of His Pen, President Obama Renders Hobby Lobby Ruling Obsolete

There is a phrase, “you’d complain if you were hung with a new rope” that loosely means there are some people that can never be satisfied regardless of the accommodations other people make for them. The phrase can also mean that the people who complain incessantly and can never be satisfied is because they cannot always have things their way. In 21st Century America, evangelical Republicans are those who demand it is “their way or the highway” and there is no greater example than the religious Republican crusade to control women’s reproductive health; or better put, to force every woman in America into being perpetual birth machines. Last year a wildly popular evangelical talking point to support their demand for control over American women was they would not tolerate any woman, married or single, having “consequence free sex;” restricting birth control was the religious right’s method of punishing women who failed to toe the evangelical line and remain celibate or perpetually pregnant.

The idea of Christian conservatives wielding control over women’s reproductive health was behind the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell lawsuit that the Vatican-5 on the Supreme Court decided was evangelical employer’s religious liberty to control women and prevent them from having consequence free sexual relations. According to the Catholic justices’ ruling, the Obama Administration ‘must‘ provide an accommodation for “religious” for-profit corporations and on Friday, President Obama did just that in response to the High Court’s decision. In fact, what President Obama did was effectively neuter the Hobby Lobby ruling and ensure that all women, even those employed by ‘religious corporations,’ will still have birth control covered at no cost to them; even if their evangelical employers object and refuse to provide it. The sad, unfortunate women who happen to work for a church, or place of worship though, are still bound to adhere to their employer’s religious edict that under no circumstances will they be allowed to have ‘consequence free’ sex.

The way the new rule is written, a religious corporation that refuses to allow their employees’ health plans to provide contraception will write a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and claim that their religious freedom demands they control women’s sexual activities. The HHS will then notify a third-party insurer that the company’s theocratic owners’ insist on controlling women and the third-party insurer will provide birth control coverage to the employees at no additional cost to the religious corporation or the female employees. The Secretary of the HHS released a statement saying that “Women across the country should have access to preventive services, including contraception. We recognize the deeply held views on these issues and are committed to securing women’s access to important preventive services at no additional costs while respecting religious beliefs.”
There were already provisions and accommodations for religious non-profits in the contraception mandate within the Affordable Care Act, but Catholics were not satisfied and joined Hobby Lobby’s evangelical owners to sue the Administration. Their absurd religious beliefs informed them that all forms of contraceptives are abortion. Although the High Court conceded that according to all known medical and biological science birth control is in no possible way abortion, the Papal-5 ruled if that was the ‘deeply-held‘ view of the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Christian corporations, then by dog birth control is abortion. The President’s “official” accommodation came just after a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down yet another evangelical attempt to control women’s sexuality and deny their access to basic reproductive healthcare.

The 5th Circuit’s ruling came down from an “ultraconservative judge,” Jerry Smith, who told a cabal of evangelical employers that if they insisted on restricting women’s reproductive choices by refusing to include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans, they “had to submit letters to HHS” so their female employees could have a semblance of control over their own reproductive health. The evangelical employers, who are not houses of worship, religious non-profits, or churches, complained bitterly to the courts that if they were forced to submit a form to HHS, they would lose their control over women and they would “be allowed” to get the contraception coverage elsewhere. The ultra-conservative judge was not the least bit impressed or sympathetic to the bovine excrement religious liberty complaint and threw the evangelicals out of court.

Religious fanatics, and particularly Republican religious fanatics, are at the forefront of the war against any woman who believes they have a right to choose when they give birth. Republicans claim they are against abortions, but their only motivation in restricting women’s reproductive rights is forcing them to become birth machines or celibate. This was particularly the case in a state like Colorado where pro-life Republicans are livid because for the past six years when young and poor women were offered free long-acting birth control, the birthrate among teenagers fell a not-so-astounding 40 percent, and abortions plunged by 42 percent according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  There were similar declines among unmarried women under 25 who had not finished high school. The results are incontrovertible that if religious right Republicans really want to reduce abortions and teen pregnancies, they would not restrict access to any contraception method.

The results of the past six years did not sit well with pro-life Republicans and evangelical groups like Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, who are pushing the Colorado Assembly to deny funding for the state program that was previously funded by a private grant and the reason is clear. Reducing the number of teen or unwanted pregnancies, or abortions, is not the driving force behind the evangelical Republican opposition to contraceptive services or abortion; controlling women’s sex lives and punishing them for having “consequence free” sex is whether they are married or single. The President’s Hobby Lobby fix, along with the contraception mandate in the ACA will go a long way to provide women with control over their reproductive choices.

Of course, evangelical Republicans in Congress have a different idea of allowing women to choose when they give birth and are crusading to restrict their options; particularly low income women. Republicans in Congress are crusading and on pace to abolish the Title X program that provides reproductive care for 4.6 million poor and low-income women. Republican Richard Nixon said Title X was created specifically to guarantee that “with broad bipartisan support we will provide adequate family planning services to all those who want them but cannot afford them.” Everything changed when B-movie actor and Republican demigod Ronald Reagan became president and granted the religious right unquestioned authority to control women’s lives.

Religious Republicans have demonstrated that they will continue complaining, and pushing Catholic dogmata in the Humanae Vitae, that they be allowed to exert authority over women’s sexuality and reproductive health choices. Just this week in Wisconsin, for example, at the urging of Governor Scott Walker, the religious Republican legislature passed an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban with Walker’s express demand that included in the ban there is no exception for rape, incest, or life of the mother.

Earlier this year, Walker eliminated state and federal funding from nine of the state’s Planned Parenthood health centers; not to prevent unwanted pregnancies or abortions, but to control women. The funding elimination infuriated Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman because it did not completely eliminate family planning from Wisconsin entirely. Grothman said,  “There’s a very ugly side to this organization, and I regret that they’re going to take such a tiny cut in this budget.” The ugly side, according to Grothman’s complaint and religious right ideology is that as long as there is even one family planning clinic in Wisconsin, some of the state’s women will not lose control over their reproductive choices.

Wisconsin was the fourth evangelical Republican state to defund the family planning provider after Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina did so and their intent was not to prevent unwanted pregnancies or abortions, but to control women and impose their evangelical edict that no woman, married or otherwise, will ever have “consequence-free sex,” control their own reproductive health, or choose when they give birth and start families.

In evangelical Republicans’ world, that control and those decisions are the purview of the religious right, Hobby Lobby’s owners, Focus on the Family, the personhood movement, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As long as Barack Obama is President, women will have a firewall against yet another form of religious right tyranny to force them into celibacy or become perpetual birth machines which is the evangelical Republicans’ ultimate goal.

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