Oh, dear God: the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby

June 30, 2014 • 7:38 am

My CNN news alert has just given me the depressing decision:

The Supreme Court today sided with Christian-owned companies that don’t want to pay for some types of contraceptives for their employees.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties and Christian bookseller Mardel argued that the Affordable Care Act violates the First Amendment and other federal laws protecting religious freedom because it requires them to provide coverage for contraceptives like the “morning-after pill,” which the companies consider tantamount to abortion.

The decision may serve as a primer for other pending challenges to the health law championed by President Barack Obama.

I’m busy and haven’t time to look this up, but I’m betting the vote is 5-4, with Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Kennedy concurring, and Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer and Ginsburg dissenting.

This opens the door to every business being able to determine its employees’ health care on religious grounds. Abortion is next.

132 thoughts on “Oh, dear God: the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby

      1. you are correct. we jus don’t do business with any of these types of twits….let them pray for business and lets see where that gets them…

          1. The Chick-Fil-A boycott wasn’t successful because social conservatives were convinced that boycotting Chick-Fil-A was somehow a violation of the 1st amendment, as though the constitution speaks to where we should buy lunch. But I don’t think that the Chick-Fil-A result should deter people from boycotting the complainants in this case. I, for one, never plan on patronizing any of the offending establishments.

          2. There is one fundamental difference. The Chick Fil-A boycott was in response to something someone said. As far as I know the company has not been accused of actual discriminatory practices. Hobby Lobby will have to make an anti-woman stance part of their corporate policy.

            1. “As far as I know the company has not been accused of actual discriminatory practices.”

              Then I don’t think you’ve been paying attention.

              From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-badash/chick-fil-a-5-reasons-it-isnt-what-you-think_b_1725237.html (I realize that site doesn’t have the best reputation around here, but you can follow the links to their sources):

              “Chick-fil-A has donated at least $5 million to organizations (including a certified hate group) that, among other things, depict gay people as pedophiles, want to make ‘gay behavior’ illegal, and even say gay people should be ‘exported’ out of America.”

              From http://www.southernstudies.org/2012/08/chick-fil-as-history-of-workplace-discrimination.html:

              “But in fact, the company has been sued at least a dozen times for employment discrimination, according to Forbes magazine.”

              “Forbes noted that Chick-fil-A might face more discrimination lawsuits if it didn’t screen potential hires and operators so rigorously, with many job candidates going through a yearlong vetting process with dozens of interviews that can last as long as five hours. The parent company also asks people who apply for operator licenses to disclose their marital status, number of dependents, and involvement in community, civic, social, church and professional organizations.”

  1. Closely held corporation. But I suspect that non-public corporations, partnerships, and single owner businesses would also fit into this.

    The only solution is to vote with your money. Don’t shop at Hobby Lobby.

    1. “Closely held corporation.” Which failure to draw a clear line opens up a new stream of court cases on what constitutes “closely held.”

      Also look forward to “closely held corporations” which do not wish to serve gay customers, or non-white customers, or whatever.

      1. Those cases are far enough away from this precedent that I think sane lower courts could still prevent such discrimination by claiming it has no bearing.
        In particular, they could (and hopefully will) say that the HL case is about employer-employee contract rights, not about business-customer service rights.

          1. Circuit courts could still not take the bait, and instead argue that this was only about providing limited services to employees (and to all employees equally) rather than discriminating in employment.

            Look, I hope Kennedy sees the error of his ways and changes his ruling in future decisions. But I’m skeptical that he’d allow discrimination against blacks or whatever just to remain legally consistent. More likely in that case, he’ll just rule inconsistently. If someone tries to not serve blacks, not hire women, or not pay for blood transfusion, Kennedy will just say they aren’t interpreting the ruling correctly.

            Basically, the only groups who are going to get this SCOTUS’ support to discriminate are corporate christian groups trying not to pay for women’s services. Everyone else ain’t in the tribe, and won’t get their support.

  2. and how many other places will conscientious people have to not patronize? The decision ( http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf ) appears to say that employeers can decide not to pay for what they don’t agree with. It appears to not give any distinction between birth control and any other form of health care. So, sorry folks, if you need a transfusion, and you have some theist who doesn’t believe in it, you have to pay for it yourself.

    This decusion does nothing but say that some people’s religion is more important than others, which is exactly what the RFRA did. My boss can exercise his religion but I cannot do so equally.

    1. “My boss can exercise his religion but I cannot do so equally.”

      It’s one thing to exercise your religion. It’s another thing to try to impose your religious views/restrictions onto others. I’m appalled that even this court wouldn’t make that distinction.

    2. Yes exactly. They have done a reverse-Blackstone, and decided that it is better for ten empolyees be repressed than have one employer be inconvenienced.

  3. “Abortion is next.”

    Then blood transfusions?

    Or ANY medical services? (From a Christan Science owned company.)

    Lets have a list of all the medical practices that will be uninsurable on “religious grounds”, with the sects that will claim it.

    1. Just from the news stories (haven’t seen the actual decision), it appears Alito and the rest don’t want their ruling used against procedures they accept. He (Alito) specifically calls out vaccination and says this ruling doesn’t necessarily apply to it.
      Basically, they carved themselves an “out” by saying that required coverage may be the “least burdensome” method of ensuring health for all these other things they are okay with, but since HHS hasn’t shown that requiring contraception is the ‘least burdensome’ method of ensuring their goal in the case of contraception, there must be a religious excemption for contraception.

      I would expect future follow-on rulings to be completely political/personal, using Alito’s logic to carve out exemptions for any treatment the 5 members of the court don’t like but saying the logic doesn’t apply to any treatment they do like.

  4. Rather than boycott Hobby Lobby I suggest painting T-shirts (perhaps even with items purchased at their store) with statements of choice…….and then wearing them in their store while purchasing some meager item.
    “oh, yes. I made this T-shirt” (emblazoned with some statement: “contraceptive rights for all” (for example). “I need to make more, that’s why I’m here in your store.”
    I would love to see them refuse to sell to someone based on an article of clothing they are wearing.

    1. I think that is a terrific idea. There aren’t any hobby lobby stores near me, but you should definitely do that, and encourage others to do so as well. I used to work in the news media for 6 years, and the news is not as bad as you think it is, it’s far, far worse. A simple boycott will never get the attention of the incompetent and ethically compromised hacks that populate the modern TV newsroom, but a story like this would get their attention. This idea is a keeper, way to go.

    2. “oh, yes. I made this T-shirt” (emblazoned with some statement: “contraceptive rights for all” (for example). “I need to make more, that’s why I’m here in your store.”

      Or “oh, yes, I’m crocheting some condoms for my sex ed class demonstration and I need some more yarn….”

      1. That must be one HELL of a crochet knot! Be really careful about dropping any stitches. But the marketing potential is marvelous! Some little stocking hats, ski masks, sock puppets…

  5. Next move – Wal Mart converts to Christian Science and gets out of providing any health insurance.

    1. Walmart already violates so many human rights, animal cruelty issues, ecological concerns and so very many other just decent practices that they wouldn’t likely care about another.

  6. I thought I was a little cynical but I’m still surprised by this decision.

    For all the attention to treating corporations as legal persons, I thought they would see that corporations couldn’t hold beliefs and couldn’t practice religion. Their founders, owners and individuals within the corporation sure, but not the corp itself.

    And besides, the issue here isn’t that the corp’s ability to exercise its religious views are being impaired, it’s that it can’t impose its views onto others.

    Finally, it’s long been recognized that we can be compelled to pay for insurance and taxes which go to things we don’t support. Even if that lack of support stems from religious grounds. I don’t see how they can square this decision with that. I shudder to imagine the future decisions which will use this as a precedent.

  7. Not only are for profit corporations “people” per the court, now privately held corporations are also “religious people”? Most dangerously, they now have a license to discriminate based on those religious beliefs. I was very nervous about this decision, and my fears are realized. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised by this terrible ruling. The 4 conservative justices are Roman Catholics and so is the swing guy Kennedy. This is a travesty. I will never step foot in a Hobby Lobby again.

    Watch this morph into a slew of corporate lawyers beavering away trying to figure out how to make it work for them. This is supposedly a narrow ruling regarding only corporations in the ownership of a few people, however, the genie is out of the bottle now. There will be all kinds of attempts by emboldened religious groups to push this ruling farther and in more extreme ways.

    1. This is supposedly a narrow ruling regarding only corporations in the ownership of a few people, however, the genie is out of the bottle now.

      The strategy is to create a narrow ruling, and then later cite it as a precedent for wider gains.

  8. And I naively thought that superior courts, never mind supreme courts, were supposed to render decisions based on law and precedent, not ideology. Silly me!

  9. Today I am ashamed of my country and the stranglehold religion has on it.

    At least the rights of same-sex couples are making progress. Then again, THEY don’t need contraception.

  10. What is next is for the Green family, who own Hobby Lobby, to press their weird, personal interpretation of Christianity and a Bible-based worldview farther and farther.

    For example, they have created a “Bible Study” course through their private “Museum of the Bible” for secondary schools that’s been adopted as an elective course by the Mustang School District in Oklahoma.

    Presented as a neutral treatment of the Bible as in influence in art and literature, the course has been panned by reviewers as pure proselytizing, which, of course, it is.

    1. Green family also supports a program that is now busily dismantling ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage, in order to get at the manuscripts used in construction of the mummies, which might (they hope) contain early Christian texts. It is a nightmare, really, I have a bit about it on this blog with a couple of grim videos – http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/elginism-in-greece-and-egypt-manuscripts-mummy-masks-ptolemaic-texts-and-cultural-repatriation/

      1. How awful! I couldn’t even watch the videos of the mummy mask destruction. I thought Christianity was finished destroying ancient artifacts in the mediaeval period!

        1. Unfortunately, some of the ‘born-agains’ really don’t care about artifacts other than those linked to their own interest – in this case, early Christianity manuscripts. Very distressing.

  11. It’s a good reminder that rational thinking is still in an “uphill battle” in this country against an embedded primitive cultural belief system- be sure you vote this November! This thing could still go very badly if the “brights” rest on their laurels and past victories; these people don’t ever give up.

  12. I would prefer not sound prejudicial, but I am unfamiliar with who would shop at Hobby Lobby. Isn’t it a lower-class Walmart? By directing their organization’s tenets towards Christianity this is only going to isolate them from some markets which are already redundantly taken up by online (largely secular) organization.

    This is a diminished success for Hobby Lobby.

    1. Kevin, it’s a craft supply store that carries items for painters, seamstresses, floral designers, miniature-makers, dollhouse builders, etc.

    2. Not lower-class at all. I used to shop there and they have very nice hobby supplies and even some tasteful Pier-One style furniture.

    3. When you discover your 8th grader has a diorama on a Civil War battle due in the morning, and he hasn’t even started working on it, Hobby Lobby is there to bail you out!

      Never thought about HL very much, but I did notice they sold “Bible Verse” mints at the checkout, and I thought that was kinda weird.

    4. they claim to run their business on “Christian principles.” But they of course depend on breaking their god’s laws to get their imported product. I don’t see the murdering everyone who works on the Sabbath on their behalf.

      hypocrites as usual.

  13. Matthew 19:23-24
    …23And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24″Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    What amazes me is these “devout” Christian CEOs who apparently never read those Bibles they are always waving around. (And please, no replies about how “eye of a needle” refers to some sort of small gate. If you are tempted to make that argument, go read the Wikipedia entry on it.)

    1. I think they have a “keeping up with the Jones'” sort of bias. I.e., if I’m only as well-off as the people around me, I’m not really rich. That other guy over there who has a lot more than I do is rich, but my house is just like everyone elso on the block, so I’m not rich.

      After all, keep in mind that 90% of the world’s population makes $10k/year or less. Technically speaking, the vast vast majority of middle class westerners are eye-of-needle rich. We don’t think we are because we have the same ‘just keeping up with the Joneses’ bias – but the hard truth of the matter is, if Jesus came down and plucked 20 people from the earth at random, you included, and only let the least wealthy 15 into heaven, you, dear readers, would very very likely be one of the five left out.

  14. If they don’t have to provide coverage for birth control pills, then they shouldn’t cover meds like Viagra and Cialis, right?

  15. Liberal Religion is accountable here, too, for being too cowardly to confront these more ignorant, bigoted sects/factions.

    1. Absolutely. I have told many of my liberal Christian friends that the reason atheists are “militant” is that they are too cowardly to stand up to the bullies.

    1. I get your point but I say BOYCOTT! I’d love to see their profits take a nose dive, as a statement.

      I know it ain’t gonna happen anyway, because there are plenty of religious idiots out there who would shop Hobby Lobby even if they didn’t need anything to counter any organized boycott to blunt effectiveness of it.

      1. They won’t be making the S&P 500 by showing up in a T-shirt and buying a bible verse mint,
        just sayin’

  16. I will be very curious as to how free-market insurance companies price such coverage. Birth control (or an abortion) is a lot less expensive than a full term pregnancy and new baby care.

    1. Obama has mandated that insurance carriers must supply essentially free contraception coverage to employees of private religious organizations that get the exemption. I’m reasonably certain he’ll now expand that same rule to “closely held” corporations.

      So the cost to women employees should likely be “free.” However, it is still a hassle to sign up for and manage two plans, and the “opt in” nature of this solution will likely mean more women forego coverage altogether.

  17. Sickening beyond belief. They shouldn’t be called the 5 justices – but the 5 Mullahs or 5 Theocrats. Are we living in the United States of Iran. My God!!!!!

  18. I think we should start referring to these people as Ayatollah Thomas, Ayatollah Scalia, Ayatollah Roberts. After all their behavior is hard to distinguish from the tyranny of Ayatollahs.

  19. Hobby Lobby don’t seem to mind making their profits from customers who use contraception. Or selling things made in China where contraception and abortion is practiced.

    When Hobby Lobby is consistent in its religious convictions, i.e., has all of its products manufactured by people who don’t use birth control and ascertain that their customers aren’t on the pill, so that all of their money is pure, then maybe I won’t think they are such f*cking hypocrites.

    1. Their hypocrisy is much worse than that. They actually covered the contraceptives in question before the ACA. They dropped coverage for these contraceptives only in 2012, just months before filing their lawsuit complaining about how the ACA would force them to supply coverage for these contraceptives. It’s fairly transparent that they dropped their coverage of these things merely to bolster their standing in the court case they were planning to file and that the motive for the case has much less to do with religion than it does with resisting the Kenyan Usurper. Now that’s what I call hypocrisy!

  20. Is there any glimmer of a possibility that this might signal the demise of employer-provided health coverage? Any minute chance that people will be so outraged that they have to discuss their sex lives with their employer (I realize that can be read in two ways!) that they will go get their own health insurance through the exchanges? Clutching at straws, anyone….??

    1. It is problematic that employers have direct control over health care coverage and you wonder where privacy laws begin and employer rights end.

  21. Negative comments have already started appearing on the HL facebook page. We could blitz it…..

  22. And last week all 9 justices struck down Massachusetts’ 35′”buffer zone” around abortion clinics as a violation of free speech. Why can’t someone seeking an abortion have the freedom to not be verbally and physically assaulted? What is going on around here? It’s just so fucking depressing…all this scheiss! Must watch football and forget for a while.

  23. This is precisely why Republicans cannot be allowed to control the legislature after this year’s election and must not be allowed to gain the White House in 2016. The harm that has been done by the Roberts court is nothing compared to what could happen if Republicans replace any of the four good judges with another bad one and fail to replace any of the SCOTUS RATS with good ones.

  24. On a damining detail of the decision, Jay Micaelson notes,

    Early on in Justice Alito’s opinion for the court, he says of the plaintiffs, the Green and Hahn families, that “according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”

    Let’s parse that sentence. “The four contraceptive methods at issue are abortofacients.” That should be a statement of fact, not faith. Either these pills cause abortions, or they don’t. Yet Justice Alito—himself a devout Catholic—says that this fact may be determined based on “religious beliefs.”

    1. I wouldn’t read much into it. Higher courts (including circuit courts as well as SCOTUS) do not typically revisit disputed facts in a case, they stick to deciding disputed points of law. Deciding on facts is the job of the lower court. What’s more, I don’t think the Burwell side disputed this as part of their legal argument, so SCOTUS would have no reason to question it.

      That’s a bit arcane, but it’s the way the legal system works. If the plaintiff says the sky is red as part of their argument, and the defendent doesn’t object to that statement, then no appeals court will revisit the question of whether the sky is really red or not.

      1. In some (and probably many) appellate cases the “facts” become so refined that they bear little relationship to the original case. Both the parties and the courts “tailor” the facts to fit the point of law that they wish to have determined/want to determine. Can be a good or a bad thing depending on your view of the potential outcome.

  25. The net effect of the Supreme Court’s injudicious decision is that companies like Hobby Lobby are now permitted to deny employees their right to specific contraceptives based on their superstitious beliefs and on ignorance about how a certain class of contraceptives work.

    The contraceptives they refuse their employes are not abortifacients. They thwart fertilization by preventing ovulation not by terminating an established pregnancy.

    That denying employees the liberty to choose contraceptives based on ignorance is now deemed legal is unacceptable in a civilized society.

    1. They thwart fertilization by preventing ovulation not by terminating an established pregnancy.

      …and since half or more of all fertilized eggs never implant in the uterus, to the extent that women are denied such contraceptives, more “souls” are lost than if the contraceptives were used.

  26. The US super-legislature, otherwise known as the US Supreme Court, has again inflicted its’ personal beliefs under the cover of “legal reasoning” on the American people. Again, under what authority do they do so? Why the seizure of this power by John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison (by the way, the finding of authority of judicial review was not necessary to the ruling and therefor dicta). I believe this right wing Supreme Court majority, when augmented by future conservative appointments by a Republican President by Congress will be facilitator of a future American theocracy. Impossible you say? The economy is a straw’s weight away from collapsing, and how do the masses react when confronted with crisis? Why they elect or support the liar who promises the things they most want to be true and is not tied to the last administration. Never underestimate the power of irrationalism in human decision making.

    “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross” Sinclair Lewis.

    1. To quote nobody (since no one actually said this particular sentence): “people get the government they deserve” How many people do you know that actually vote, and/or more importantly, bother to find out who and what they are actually voting foe?

      And abortion is not a religious issue; it is a human rights issue.

  27. Forget the Al Qaeda offshoot ISIS! It’s the Christian Califate being created in the world’s most powerful country that we have to worry about.

  28. Will certainly not do business with Hobby Lobby or Conestoga. I’ve stopped buying Barilla pasta (which I liked) and I never went to Chick Filet anyway.

  29. All I can say is thank Jeebus for the NHS. This situation could never happen in our appalling, dreadful socialist medicine ……..

  30. This is more than opening the door for businesses limiting healthcare options. The decision seems to be worded to apply more widely to not limiting corporation’s religious beliefs. Because, you know, corporations are people. Now that this precedent is set, how would this apply when some Christian business who decides not to hire gay people, Muslims, atheists, etc? Or, as usual, in these ridiculous decisions what happens when the roll is reversed and some other business decides its religion allows discrimination against the Christians?

  31. We can only hope abortion is the next to go! Also, Hobby Lobby covers birth control just not the 4 drugs that cause abortion.

  32. 1. Sadly, I’m not surprised.

    2. This provides a powerful argument for the single-payer healthcare system. Healthcare should be considered one of the basic human rights, not a gift handed out on a whim of the employer.

  33. I’m sure they should pay the workers way more then minimum wage.It says so in the bible i know i’ve seen it.

    1. Once fertilized, the ovum is medically and legally a living human being and a distinct and separate individual with its own DNA and not a part of the mother’s body.

      1. Sorry, no, it is not. Certainly not medically, and, best I know, not legally in any Western jurisdiction.

        There have been repeated attempts by right-wing arch-concervative teabag nutjobs to pass so-called “personhood” bills, but none have ever really had a chance of passage.

        Indeed, the “life begins at conception,” I’m pretty sure, is a relatively modern religious invention.

        Even medically, pregnancy isn’t considered to begin until implantation, and the closest that you’ll get medically to your definition would be “viability” — and, even then, it really only applies once the fetus has been delivered. Preemies are considered people, but only after they’ve been hooked up to the life support machines.


          1. Sorry to take so much time to reply; I have been ill. From a strictly scientific stand point a fetus (or child at any stage of gestation) is 1. alive, 2. a distinct individual (as opposed being a part of any other being, eg Mom) and 3, has human DNA, and therefore should be accorded the same rights granted to any other human being. To truly legislate anything, you must be able to define it. (I do realize that laws are passed all the time ignoring this little detail, but they often lead to verdicts that are very easily overturned when a different judge interprets things differently and this costs us all a lot of money and time.) So if we require a definition of ‘human being’ past these three points, where do we go? How can ‘personhood’ be defined? Self-awareness? Science has discovered that there are several non-human species that are self-aware, so that requirement cannot be used to define us as ‘human person’ and has gone the way of walking upright, using and making tools and opposable thumbs. Same goes for speech, “handedness” (as in left or right), caring for their dead, ritualized behavior that could be construed as religion, capability of imagination and/or creating art. This also applies to negative behaviors like murder, rape, vengeance, waging war, enslavement, infanticide, etc.
            The child’s health cannot be the deciding factor. If a developing child is not viable or isn’t developing into a child, this most often triggers a spontaneous abortion. If it doesn’t, removing the child from the womb is not a legal issue. If it’s dead, you can’t kill it. The next sticky wicket comes here. Technology is sufficiently developed for testing the unborn child for genetic disorders, disease and deformity. But then who decides if the child is malformed enough, sick enough, unintelligent enough, expensive enough or just ugly enough to be killed? So at what point do any of these conditions make the child un-human? When a parent decides he or she cannot handle a less than perfect child? If such could be used as legal criteria, no child would live past the teen years.
            So what can we use to be number 4? Must be viable outside the womb? Science can freeze a newly fertilized ovum and later implant it a different incubation environment (living or mechanical.) Children that are medically distressed in-utero can have several surgical procedures performed before birth and can also be delivered viable younger every day. Technology moves much faster than legislation.
            So what criteria must be met for ‘personhood’? Think about that and be very careful who you let decide which humans can have what rights. Right now the Unborn Victims of Violence Act effectively extends personhood status to a “child in utero at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb” if they are targeted, injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed violent crimes. Obviously these laws accord the unborn human rights that must be protected. In the very same jurisdiction, millions of abortions are legally performed daily. So in one perspective, it follows that healthcare professionals (and only healthcare professionals) are allowed to commit premeditated murder and the mother solicitation of murder. How are we going to define/legislate who gets to kill whom? In this country today YOU ARE LEGALLY A HUMAN BEING IF SOMEONE WANTS YOU. I find that a really scary precedent.
            I understand the absolute necessity of population/birth control. Just not at the expense of human rights. There must be an answer other than killing babies. If a fraction of the funds spent on abortions, or just a fraction of what is spent on name-calling, violent/destructive protest and/or legal fees for the afore mentioned, perhaps science could find a safe, effective and affordable contraceptive and/or a way to safely remove the fetus and implant it in some other incubating environment. I really wish that this was an idea people would get so passionate about and so willing to put time, effort and funding into.
            I have never believed in abortion, and it is something that, had I felt any less deeply, could have made my life, and my family’s lives much, much easier, a whole lot less stressful and a good bit less expensive. But I just could not see how solving my problems justified taking a life.

            1. Your entire premise is based on the collection of cells in a womb containing human DNA. Human sperm also contains DNA – should we not spill any for fear that we are harming a human? How do you suppose that a cytoplast is a distinct individual? It is a collection of cells.

              1. You are missing a significant difference in these two situation. We are all a collection of cells. Neither a sperm nor an egg have a significant DNA profile to be a distinct individual, nor do they have a complete human DNA. I don’t know if they can even be classified as technically alive. At fertilization, however, the ovum becomes completely distinctly different from the mother or father; it now conforms to the scientific definition as a very different thing. Once the DNA from the sperm and ovum join, it then conforms to the scientific definitions I has said. It is now a human being by scientific law. Period. That distinction is irrefutable. I am not saying abortion Is inherently wrong; I simply think anyone who decides to abort a child should understand what they are doing.

              2. What do you think a “scientific law” is? What do you think a “child” is?

              3. Every time I scratch myself I scrape off complete DNA sequences each of which could in principle be cultured into a new human being.

                I’m a mass murderer.

                “It is now a human being by scientific law. Period.”

                No. Lisa’s opinion is not quite the same as “scientific law”. Period.

            2. All of your concerns about when life begins are completely irrelevant to the matter.

              First, life began a few billion years ago and has never stopped since. Second, as with so many things, the question of when a person’s independent existence starts is a matter of a location on a continuum. We invent metrics to distinguish a child from an adult, an adult from a retiree, and so on, but they’re entirely arbitrary. You’re the same person one second before midnight the day before your eighteenth birthday and the next second, but, legally, you’re a child the one moment an an adult the next…but, even then, you’re still not a full adult — another landmark happens at 21 (drinking age), and then 25 (US House eligibility), and then 30 (Senate), and then 35 (President)…50 (AARP membership), 62 (minimum Social Security age), 67 (full SS age), and more.

              All of those lines on the calendar are entirely arbitrary and only exist as a result of the consensus of society. They’re not defined because there’s something that happens biologically or mentally or whatever at the stroke of midnight on those birthdays, but rather because our society has decided that we need some sort of easy-to-measure method of separating those eligible for whatever-it-is from those who aren’t, even if arbitrary, and that these ages are “good enough.” There’re select few ten year olds who’e objectively much better qualified to be President than the overwhelming majority of people older than 35, but we still don’t let them run even though we let much-less-objectively-qualified septuagenarians (McCain, e.g.) run. As such, it not only is entirely appropriate for society to set some arbitrary age-related limit on when legal personhood begins, it’s the only way our society knows how to do that sort of thing.

              And we could get into a long-winded argument about how, biologically, your skin cells have as much right to personhood as a blastocyst. We now know that any nuclear cell can be the starting point for a clone. And, for that matter, we also know that it’s possible, at least in theory, to create an individual starting with nothing more than a complete DNA sequence. Is it murder to delete a file from a computer if that file contains a complete human genome?

              But, even still, all this is irrelevant.

              Until birth, blastocysts and embryos and fetuses can only legally and socially be considered parasites. Just as there can be no possible moral justification for requiring somebody to donate blood or other tissues or organs, thee can be no possible moral justification for requiring a woman to let another entity, even her own child, use her body.

              When somebody chooses to freely give of herself to save another, in whatever form, that’s potentially an admirable and noble thing. But, unless you want to start throwing people in jail when they fail to rush back into a burning building in a futile attempt to save those trapped inside, you have no reason to throw people in jail for having or participating in an abortion.

              You do realize that that’s what you’re proposing, right? Jailing women and doctors for abortions? Because that’s exactly what it means to make something illegal. Sure, you could fine somebody — but, if they refuse to pay the fine, you’re left with putting them behind bars…and I can guarantee you that many abortion rights activists, on principle alone, would refuse to pay fines.

              It’s perfectly fine to think that abortions are icky or even evil, to never consider one for yourself, and to urge others to not have an abortion. Personally, I’d love to live a world in which there never was the need for anybody to even have to contemplate an abortion.

              What’s over the line — waaaaaaay over the line — is using the force of law to impose your prudishness upon others.

              Now, if you want to postulate some nonexistent Star Trek medical procedure that could terminate a pregnancy with less chance of harm to the woman whilst still permitting the embryo to develop to term, and you’ve got a way to provide for the care and feeding of the resulting infant for the next couple decades, you might have an interesting twist to add to the subject. But, lacking that type of fantasy, there really isn’t anything else relevant to the matter.



              1. I was going to say “parasite” too but I stopped short of it because I wanted to get past the “scientific” part. Must be telepathy again. 😉

              2. Nice comment, though I think you could’ve established your point with just the part pertaining to the arbitrary line we establish as a society. I personally think the line should be established before the third trimester as the fetus is more developed at that point and can often service outside the womb albeit with state of the art medical equipment if it is very early on. That is, my arbitrary line is the point where we don’t need some kind of high tech incubation going on and from a rational standpoint, one should be able to determine if it is an unwanted pregnancy inside of six months.

                But, as you point out, society only knows one way to make these arbitrary lines, and so it must continue that way. The parasite argument, to me, isn’t as strong because 1) while the definition fits, the terminology isn’t going to win many converts to the cause; 2) part of it seems to imply that it is reasonable to have a late term abortion because the fetus isn’t viable (but in many cases it is). Now we need to define viability. A fetus 5 minutes away from being born is in no better shape than a baby is 5 minutes later when the umbilical cord detaches. And, it will be quite some time before the baby is able to function in any way resembling independence.

                I realize this all underscores your point that these lines are quite arbitrary and a clump of cells right after conception isn’t remarkably different than the sperm and egg are right before conception (DNA isn’t a distinguishing factor). Somewhere along the way the clump of cells turns into a person, but when it happens is like trying to ask someone which set of skulls is actually human stepping back through the evolutionary process.

              3. Now we need to define viability.

                No, we don’t. Honestly.

                A fetus 5 minutes away from being born is in no better shape than a baby is 5 minutes later when the umbilical cord detaches.

                Show me a single case of somebody getting an abortion five minutes before birth for any reason other than some horrible tragedy in which the woman is going to die otherwise, and you’ll change my mind.

                Otherwise, it’s a moot point. In reality, the only reason anybody ever gets a late-term abortion is for medical reasons — usually, for the life or health of the woman, or because the fetus is so deformed it’s not going to survive anyway. So-called “elective birth-control” abortions are always done looooong before then; by the time a woman gets late into the pregnancy, in societies where abortion is available, it’s because she actually wants to carry the baby to term.

                And, of course, that’s the other other part of the anti-abortion crusade: to punish women for getting pregnant. If you accept that abortion is suitable as a last-ditch method of birth control (and, of course, make better forms universally available), then the “problem” solves itself. No woman is going to let an unwanted pregnancy get to the third trimester; if she doesn’t want to have the baby, she’s going to make that decision in much less than six months.

                Now, have a look at the position on birth control typically taken by anti-abortion activists, and it’ll become obvious that it’s all about keeping teh wimmins barefoot and preggers and controlling people through their sex drives. Otherwise, they’d be handing out condoms on street corners — a far more effective method of curbing abortion rates.



              4. Oh, I don’t doubt that many abortions are of the “Oh shit” variety and are thus terminated very early on.

                I think this case should give us ample reason to define viability. Yes, the system worked, but anti abortion advocates are still jumping all over it. We need to define it or else we’ll have absurd arguments regarding a fetus almost at the point of birth being equivalent to the handful of cells that the morning after pill kills.

                Looking at your example in the opposite direction, how many healthy babies need to be killed 5 minutes before birth to save a mother’s life? I don’t think the health of the mother exception should be removed simply because we don’t live in an ideal world where all pregnancies are addressed with appropriate medical attention. However, if we are going to write laws that say voluntary abortions are prohibited after X months and make exceptions for the mother’s health, we still need a firm definition, albeit arbitrary as any legal definition is.

                Maybe it’s my work as a software engineer, but I prefer defining as much as we can at the outset including outliers that will “never happen.” The Terry Shiavo case, while not related to abortion, is one example of what can happen when we fail to do this. We had a family of a woman in a vegetative state, that for no other reason but unevidenced religious belief chose to keep her alive. This kind of nonsense should be removed from our legal system.

                One can make an argument that a fetus at some point before birth is sufficiently enough like a person to warrant not killing it for no particular reason. This argument doesn’t work with cytoblasts. DNA doesn’t help, as you’ve already demonstrated.

              5. Late term abortions are dangerous to the mother. In Canada there is no limit on when you can have an abortion but the doctor will decide if it is a medically sound idea, using medical reasoning. This is strong evidence that, given the opportunity, there will be a high number of late term abortions. Here are the stats taken from here:

                Over 90% of abortions in Canada are done in the first trimester, only 2-3% are done after 16 weeks, and no doctor performs abortions past 20 or 21 weeks unless there are compelling health or genetic reasons. The risk of maternal mortality is probably greater in carrying a pregnancy to term (7.06 per 100 000 live births) than the risk associated with abortion (0.56 per 100 000 terminations) (Grimes D. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2006; 194: 92-94).

              6. And I meant to say, “strong evidence against“. I was interrupted by a chipmunk crawling up a snow berry bush & a hummingbird sipping from the flowers of said bush.

              7. Phew, that makes more sense. I was thrown off when you said a lot of late term abortions would occur. The 90% in the first trimester I think nicely fits my “Oh shit” definition. That’s an official term too ya know. 😉

                Sounds like Canada has pretty much nailed my thoughts on it too.

              8. I would say that my concerns about when HUMAN life begins are completely relevant to the matter. When ‘life’ began is completely irrelevant to this particular matter. You say that the question of when a person’s independent existence starts is a matter of a location (location, location.) This isn’t real estate, it is a human life. While, as you say -we have invented metrics to distinguish a child from an adult, an adult from a retiree, and so on, and they are entirely arbitrary. You are the same person one second before midnight the day before your eighteenth birthday and the next second, but, legally, you’re a child the one moment an adult the next…but, even then, you’re still not a full adult — another landmark happens at 21 (drinking age), and then 25 (US House eligibility), and then 30 (Senate), and then 35 (President)…50 (AARP membership), 62 (minimum Social Security age), 67 (full SS age), and more- it is still murder to kill someone at any of these stages.

                How can your skin cells have as much right to personhood as a blastocyst? Skin cells, blood or other tissues or organs do not have their own separate DNA, nor are they separate individuals. As you also say, we now know that any nuclear cell can be the starting point for a clone and at least in theory, to create an individual starting with nothing more than a complete DNA sequence. So if they are independent individuals with human DNA, how are these clones not human? If we cannot distinguish between a human infant and a computer file recording the human genome, our race is in a lot more danger than it is from the climate change!

                And, as I stated, by LAW, a child in utero in any stage of development is considered by both federal law and at least 2/3 of state governments to be a human child to be protected and, socially or not, cannot be considered a parasite any more than your dead-beat brother-in-law. Saving (or not saving) a human in danger, is not considered murder; depending on all the different circumstances. It can be sometimes construed at most as negligence or failure to render aid.
                As far as moral justification for requiring a woman to let another entity, even her own child, use her body, that IS what it is designed to do, whether it is a hardship or not. If consenting adults chose to freely give themselves to one another, that is beautiful. But our bodies were built to reproduce. It is probably the strongest instinct in any animals. But adult humans must accept that indulging in sex, as in many occasions, (ie eating, drinking, indulging in drugs, et al), must take responsibility for their actions and its result. There can be no argument that some women (or girls) caught in a desperate situation of an unwanted pregnancy need help, not jail time. With all those wonderful brains out there, is the only choice available to an inopportune child murder? Surely there is at least some other choice. And as I have also said, if abortion is the way we must choose, don’t dress it up in multisyllable excuses. At least acknowledge it for what it is.
                And my belief in the sanctity of like is not prudishness.

              9. “Skin cells, blood or other tissues or organs do not have their own separate DNA, nor are they separate individuals”

                Identical twins share identical DNA. One of the two must be expendable then?

              10. “Identical twins share identical DNA. One of the two must be expendable then?”

                In a comparative Mythology seminar I took in grad school, one of the books I read, by Claude Levi-Strauss (I think it was Myth and Meaning but don’t hold me to that) cited examples of several native South American cultures in which when twins were born, one was immediately killed. The practice stemmed from a belief that in the case of twins, there had to be one good and one evil, and the killing was done to remove the dichotomy. In some places, the bias against twinning was so strong that even a child born feet-first was killed because its emergence presented the aspect of twins.

              11. If a fertilized egg was a child, then disposing of excess frozen embryos is murder, as is any abortion. And if you’re saying at the end that abortion is murder, then a squirrel eating an acorn is equivalent to a human chopping down a tree.

                Sorry, but you’re imposing your own morality on us, so don’t tell us what we should call things. I don’t think that taking a seed from a Giant Redwood is the same thing as cutting down a redwood tree. The law recognizes that distinction as it does between murder of an adult, or a child, an an abortion.

                You’ve had your say and, as I said, you’re done on this thread, which is an old one.

          2. That’s enough Lisa; there is no “scientific law” that says that a fertilized egg is a human being. That is simply your opinion, I won’t have that kind of mischaracterization on my site.

            Take it back.

  34. The Catholic church is officially opposed to IVF. So that procedure could be next. Compared to contraceptives, IVF is more expensive too so there would be an economic motivation as well.

  35. The biggest problem is the Corporation as Person issue. If corporations did not have personhood, most of this discrimination and rampant greed wouldn’t exist. The trouble is the corporate shills in Govt. that keep their own interests in the forefront. Example: Hiring the ex-CEO of Proctor & Gamble to head the V.A. and fix it’s issues. I’m sure that those who see this as a bad thing view it as just another business interest in or near the White House.

  36. I know all of you are gonna have fits, but I see this as upholding citizen rights. 1. Hobby Lobby is a privately owned business. Individual citizens should be allowed to decide what they pay for. 2. Hobby Lobby did not refuse to offer any type of birth control, only the two that allow conception but restrict the fertilized ovum (which I feel I must point out is by this time scientifically and legally a living human being and a distinct and separate individual with its own DNA and not a part of the mother’s body) from attaching to the uterine wall or in some way prevents it from continuing to develop. I do not believe the government (at any level) should be allowed to dictate that a private citizen must fund an action he/she believes to be criminal, immoral, against religious beliefs, nor some or all of the above. There are several birth control options available to any Hobby Lobby employee that do not require a private citizen to go against his/her beliefs, religious or otherwise. 3. Hobby Lobby cannot (and shouldn’t in any case I can think of right now) discriminate in their hiring, firing or treatment practices, but that is a very different thing from telling the owners that they must participate in what they consider to be infanticide.

    1. Pardon. I believe I misquoted the actual number of birth control options. I have not read the specific choices, but it is not material to the issue.

    2. Hobby Lobby is a privately owned business. Individual citizens should be allowed to decide what they pay for.

      Sorry, but that’s the same logic that was used to argue against the Civil Rights Act: private companies shouldn’t be forced to do business with people they find undesirable. We had settled debate a couple generations ago: people have rights, not companies, and companies that interact with the public must be held to certain standards of civility and decency. It’s only the current Supreme Court that’s turned that on its head, and in decisions soundly decried by all but the plutocrats and their wholly-owned politicians.

      Byt the logic of the Hobby Lobby ruling, a Jewish employer could dock an employee’s pay for the Christmas ham said employee buys.

      What’s really happened with the Hobby Lobby case is that the employer has stepped between the employee and the employee’s doctor, and is telling the both of them what medical practices are and aren’t permissible. Fuck that shit. The company shouldn’t be in the business of paying for the employee’s medical care in the first place; but, if they do, then they have no goddamned business what goes on between the employee and the doctor, save to pay the agreed-upon amount for UN-itemized services.

      I mean, do you really want to have to ask your employer permission to get an IUD, and explain to him why you’d rather do that than just use condoms? How on Earth is that even remotely conceivable as a suitable topic of workplace discussion, let alone something that requires your boss’s approval?


      1. You nailed it. It’s exactly the same principle that was applied when minorities were told they could still drink water, just that it could be obtained elsewhere.

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