The Idiocy of the Hobby Lobby Decision

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that the company Hobby Lobby can deny comprehensive health insurance to women employees due to the companies religious belief system about abortions and contraception. This is supposedly a victory for religious liberty, if you happen to be a conservative. Instead, the policy is thoroughly illiberal.

First, it is an attack upon the poor. To escape poverty, those who are poor do not have the luxury to choose who their employer is. Whichever employer is willing to take on the poor person as part of the labour force is the one who the poor person decides to work for. By allowing companies to discriminate against providing comprehensive health care, it will make it hard for poor women who need to use birth control measures to acquire them. It will be costly for poor women to pay more on their health insurance to have access to birth control measures due to the fact that they are poor. This ruling is a measure that undermines the liberties of poor people to control their own lives.

Not only that but health defects will arise as the health insurance of the poor person is failing to provide for the poor women’s health needs. Again, the result will be to further entrench the poor women (and her family) in structural poverty. As her health needs are not provided, she will have to carry them as a burden which will effect her levels of productivity increasing the chance she will be sacked. Also she faces likely discrimination when she becomes pregnant and after a few months unable to work. Either way, we have a showcase for discrimination against women.

Sec0nd, the conservative might argue that it’s the woman’s choice as to who they sleep with, etc. A key component is to take responsibility for the choices you make. In the case of sex, that means accepting the risk of pregnancy.

Misogyny like this which is why such judgements are so morally abhorrent. Women ought to have the right to control of their bodies, a right which is applied with no problem to men. When in the womb, the foetus is dependant upon the body of the women. For a large portion of the pregnancy, the survival of the foetus is entirely dependant upon another. Until the foetus has the ability to survive independent of the mother, there is nothing wrong in aborting a foetus. Once a foetus can biologically survive independent of the mother, we can then begin ascribing rights to the foetus which could ensure that it is wrong to abort a foetus.

The fact of the matter is that she is not fully responsible for her choices because a choice about her sex life she would want to make is denied to her by others. She has been coerced by a morally puritan company to not be able to choose birth control measures in her health insurance. I’ve already tackled the nonsensical reply that the women “chose” to work there. Is the woman making the choices? No. Then, how can she be responsible?

It is only excusable to deny comprehensive health insurance if the women voluntarily allows it. If a poor women moral conscience cannot allow birth control measures to be used, whether for moral or religious reasons, then they of course there is nothing wrong with them not accepting comprehensive medical insurance. Deciding to work for a company that denies comprehensive health insurance is not evidence that the arrangement is voluntary. The important point though is that the women, not the company, ought to have the choice.

Which brings us to the third key reason this is illiberal. Health insurance is not controlled by the individual. The Supreme Court’s verdict legitimises the fact that companies can not only provide health insurance to their employees, but also dictate the terms of what is provided. Such a move has now firmly put any doubts to rest that health insurance in the US is a way to emancipate individuals from no coverage. Instead of facing the chains of not being covered, they are now in the chains of companies who can find religious, maybe moral, reasons next to find to discriminate against workers. Corporations now control an individual’s health care. The ruling of the Supreme Court showed that.

Will liberals now accept that a more radical health care reform that puts the person, not the corporation, first?

Gareth Mawer
I consider myself a left libertarian committed to promoting the philosophy of liberty, even though I do not always support proposals that are normally considered libertarian. Georgism and mutualism have had profound influences over my beliefs, though I'm not afraid to digress from them were necessary. My mains interests are politics, economics and philosophy.