Court Says Some Employers Don’t Have to Cover Birth Control

There is a lot of discussion over the US Supreme Court’s decision: Court Says Some Employers Don’t Have to Cover Birth Control | Political Wire.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split, ruled that “closely held” companies can on religious grounds opt out of a federal health-care law requirement that companies provide contraception coverage for employees, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The court’s five conservatives wrote that private companies, such as Hobby Lobby Stores, can’t be forced to provide contraceptive health services that violate their owner’s religious beliefs. The case was the first challenge to the Affordable Care Act to reach the Supreme Court since 2012, when the justices upheld most of the health-care overhaul against a constitutional challenge.”

National Journal: “How deeply the court’s decision undermines the contraception mandate will depend largely on how business owners respond… The furthest-reaching implications could come further down the road; the Obama administration and its allies have warned that companies will rely on the ruling to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.”

Wonk Wire: More Obamacare lawsuits poised to follow

I personally have three reactions to this.  The first is to bemoan the fact that women’s comprehensive reproductive health care options, options which have been scientifically shown to be important to women’s health, and to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, will be able to vetoed by their employer if that employer decides those options violate their personal religious views.

My second reaction is an understanding that, to some degree, this is a result of the structure of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), providing coverage by mandating that businesses provide it, rather than just having the government provide it with a single payer option.

I fully understand that the politics of the time made any single payer plan politically unfeasible (despite the fact that older Americans already have it with Medicare), and that the people who passed the ACA had to work with what was achievable, but our inability to provide a real government run plan exposes people to having their options curtailed by their employer, and that’s a shame.

My final reaction is that we really need to stop pretending that the US Supreme Court is something other than a political institution.  They may be insulated from the more immediate political pressures that elected officials face, but the track record of the justices show that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, they take care of the people who buttered their bread.

The main takeaway from this is that elections matter and can have long term consequences.  There are currently justices on the court whose appointments go back as far as Ronald Reagan.  Still, the next President will almost certainly have some nominations to make, and they could well swing the ideological balance on the court.  But who they nominate will be constrained by which party controls the Senate.

All of which is to say, if this decision makes you angry, register that anger at the ballot box, and convince others to do the same.  Anything else you do, petitions etc, will have minimal impact.

Why evangelicals and Catholic leaders are against contraception | Machines Like Us

Annual population percent change in the world....
Annual population percent change in the world. Source: CIA World Factbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do the leaders of some religious groups like the Catholics and now even evangelicals oppose contraception, to the extent of even objecting to health insurance policies covering it? After all, access to safe, reliable, and easy contraception has to be one of the most beneficial advances that society has made. And the fact that 99% of all sexually active women use some form of birth control suggests that women are quietly ignoring the words of their religious leaders.

via Why evangelicals and Catholic leaders are against contraception | Machines Like Us.

An interesting article by Mano Singham.  Let me say upfront that I think the idea of religious leaders sitting in back rooms consciously plotting in some machiavellian way to grow their religion with contraception bans is silly.

However, Singham has a point in that doctrines promoting procreation are one of the reasons for the success of the current world religions.  This isn’t due to any conscious strategy, but due to the fact that religions, like all cultural mechanisms, are naturally selected.

Religions that promote celibacy tend to die out over the long haul, for obvious reasons.  Religions that promote procreation tend to do better over several generations since most believers stick with the faith they were brought up in.  The best way to grow a religion, and for it to endure, is for the believers to have children.

Social psychologists, such as Jonathan Haidt and Ara Norenzayan, as well as many anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists, have discussed these theories in their works.

The problem for modern religions is that the doctrines are now largely being ignored by their adherents.  Contraception gives women control of their lives in way few had throughout history, allowing them to choose for themselves how much of their life is dedicated to being a mother.

This is a good thing in a world with a population growth problem.  I think it’s arguable that the number one problem in the world is population growth, with most other problems being details of that one problem.  In every society where women are given reproductive freedoms, population growth tends to level out, or even to become negative.

It also reflects realities in modern life.  In olden times, having lots of extra children insured that at least some survived through childhood, and provided much needed help on the farm.  But in modern economies, children are an economic responsibility.  It’s not surprising that most families in developed economies stop at two.

Religions were nicely in synch with the old dynamics.  The challenge for them is to deal with these new dynamics.  Change will happen eventually.  The fact that virtually all of their adherents ignore the anti-contraception doctrines insures it.