Filed Sept. 12 in federal court in Oklahoma City, the suit contends that it is unconstitutional for the ACA to require businesses to provide employees with health insurance plans that include contraception.
David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian-themed bookstores, said the company’s health insurance already covers contraceptives for workers, but that the ACA requires coverage of such contraceptives as the morning-after pill.
“These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose to follow the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families,” Green said.
“We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
Hobby Lobby is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group specializing in religious-expression cases.
More than 25 cases have been filed against the mandate, but only one is not a nonprofit organization. Hobby Lobby is the first non-Catholic private business to file suit.
Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund said Hobby Lobby operates in many ways — including charitable giving and offering chaplain and ministry services to its employees — as a ministry.
“When and if it receives that injunction, and we certainly hope it will, that will freeze things in place while this matter can be litigated so that Hobby Lobby is not forced to violate its religious faith while this goes forward,” Duncan said.
He said the Green family is not against offering contraception to its employees, just “abortion-inducing” contraception.
Plan B is the most widely used morning-after pill for emergency contraception. Unlike RU486, it has no effect on established pregnancies and does not cause abortion after a fertilized egg has been implanted in the uterus. When Plan B was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, the exact mechanism by which it prevented pregnancy was unclear, which led to labeling that indicates it might act by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.
It is this possibility that some consider “abortion-inducing.”
Research conducted since that time, however, indicates that might be unlikely. According to an extensive New York Times article in June, Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote that “studies ‘conclusively demonstrate’ that Plan B’s ability to block ovulation, is ‘responsible for most, if not all, instances in which emergency contraception prevents pregnancy.”
Still, the Times reported that the research has not found “absolute proof” that Plan B could never block the implanting of a fertilized egg. Consequently, the FDA states that the possibility remains that morning-after pills keep fertilized eggs from implantation.
“The government itself says that,” Duncan said, “so there’s really no question about scientific research or labels or anything of that nature. The government itself recognizes it.”
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, pointed out that Hobby Lobby is a secular company, not a nonprofit church, and that by trying to strike down part of the health care law, it is imposing the beliefs of its founders on its employees.
“From a perspective of religious liberty, the right we all enjoy to practice our faith or no faith at all as we see fit also means we also have the right to not have others impose their religious values on us,” Kiesel said.
“They’re trying to impose their values with regard to reproductive health care on their employees. At the end of the day, I think it should be the employees making that decision rather than their employer.”
Hobby Lobby has more than 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 20,000 people.
If the company fails to comply with the mandate, Duncan said, it could face fines of up to $1.3 million per day.