Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hobbyist Lobbyists

So much great stuff has been written about the Hobby Lobbyists—an awful lot of it at the sites you can visit by clicking over there on the right—that there isn't much left for me to say, but there are a few things.

Once again, as I've been patiently explaining for quite a while now, companies are not paying for contraception. They are saving the costs of unintended pregnancies, [jump]
which cost significantly more. Premiums for policies that don't include contraception ought to be higher than those that do, because they cost the insurer more; Hobby Lobby should be paying its insurers $97 a year per employee for the privilege of defying the law, because that's what it costs the insurers.

This is a well established fact, and I do not get why the coverage continues to support the narrative of your innocent bosses buying somebody an IUD. It's like having a religious objection to wellness visits—"If God wants my workers to get sick why should I be trying to prevent it?" Including free wellness visits saves the company money, that's why. In this sense alone, the Hobby Lobby case has no merit. "Keeping that slut in birth control is costing me minus $97 out of my own pocket!" Excuse me? It's the Court's duty to protect people from making unwanted profits?
House elves of Grimmauld Place. From
The way the Court has snuck all contraception into the ruling on the Hobby Lobby case is deeply disturbing to me. As I understand Alito's argument, it is about the genuine God-haunted fear of abortion felt by some of our redneck brethren extended to the insane belief that certain kinds of contraceptives are "abortifacients", that an IUD is a tiny Dr. Gosnold implanted in the womb to murder babies as fast as we can make them. While such a belief is transparent idiocy, it could still be sincere, especially in science-hating Crackerlandia, and while I wouldn't be willing to take it seriously myself, I can appreciate (I'm such a stereotype relativist liberal!) how somebody else might.

But the argument against contraception in general is a different matter. Deep religious horror of rubbers and hormonal birth control pills is limited to a tiny segment of the population, most of whom are Roman Catholic bishops and male Supreme Court justices (I don't know how far the view has truly spread among the yahoo Evangelicals in unholy alliance with the Scarlet Woman, but I can't imagine it's any further, especially with women, than it is among Catholic congregations, where as is well known the proportion of sexually active women of childbearing age using family planning is well over 97%). To the Ratzingerian Church, abortion is a sin ("murder") but artificial birth control is actually worse, along with masturbation, sodomy, and all extravaginal methods of getting one's rocks off: unlike mere murder, it is "intrinsically disordered" and contrary to God.

Alito could not have made his argument without the fake appeal to abortion, because nobody would have been able to take it seriously at all; whatever the jurisprudential qualities of the opinion, to which I cannot speak, there's a truly despicable dishonesty in the bait-and-switch whereby he makes it and then withdraws it before the ruling's climactic generalization.
From the Battle of Hogwarts. By Aedua at DeviantArt/
It's about women, aimed at punishing women, certainly, but I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much it is about class. The people whose religious scruples are respected are the proprietors of a "closely held corporation", that is the bourgeoisie in the most technical sense. Do employees get treated with a similar tenderness? Can an observant Jew get mistreated for refusing to work on Saturdays (no problem for employers in New Jersey; I can find a recent case in UK that may show a little more feeling for workers) or asking for compensation in lieu of an employer-supplied meal she or he can't eat?

As it happens, the other big case that ended the Court's term, Harris v. Quinn, might be thought of as favoring the rights of workers—the right of "free rider" workers to enjoy the benefits negotiated on their behalf by unions without paying their dues—but really it's not. Nobody's talking about the plaintiff, Pam Harris, who is paid by Medicaid to be the home health care aide for her own son and grudges SEIU for the pay package it won her to get paid for being a mom. I'm not seeing her getting quoted in all the right-wing rags about her sacred right to withhold her contribution. It's really a radical-right employer-sponsored association, the National Right to Work Foundation, against a group of workers, the SEIU, and don't let them tell you any different.

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