Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hobby Lobby: Issues at Hand

The popularized conception of the Hobby Lobby case is that it's about contraception and, to a lesser extent, how big corporations are oppressing our women/pushing their antiquated beliefs on them. I hope to reflect a bit on the first and indirectly about the second.

There is a difference between medicines which are contraceptive as a side effect and those things which are contraceptive as for the sake of a lifestyle or sexual choice. Childbirth, and impregnation, are results of sex and thus natural, i.e., part of the natural process and natural conclusion of a natural act. Those things which impede the natural process as a side effect for the sake of a medical benefit are not the issue. Despite moral objections others or I may have to the actual reason for their use we cannot assume in any way that their use is intended for a moral evil. There do exist alternatives, of course, but at that point we can only suggest them.

One issue emerges, however, from paying for contraception not as a health issue but as a lifestyle choice. One example is that someone is likely to take contraception to impede natural processes if they desire to be sexually active. This sexual activity is not necessary for their health or well-being, however much it may (or may not) contribute to, enhance, or supplement their physical and emotional health. Indeed, increased sexual activity may also increase the risk of diminishing one's health. Regardless, this vision of health is not based on necessity but choice, and I think in these instances employers have reason to take issue. Furthermore, contraception that induces abortions, i.e., those contraceptives that disable the fertilized egg from implanting itself on the uterine wall is, according to others and my consciences, terminating a life.

There are strong cases that can be made scientifically that that fertilized egg is a human life, even if it does not have the capacity for action that a fully developed man has. Many argue that pregnancy begins at the moment the zygote is implanted, and that human life likewise begins here. This is based on other scientific reasoning, perhaps, but it is additionally based on popular beliefs that this life is worth “less” than the mother or that the fertilized egg is just “a mass of cells” as opposed to a human being.

No one is forcing anyone to believe one or the other is true by this ruling, but it is forcing those who want these abortofacients that we do not share this definition that they have, even if the phenomena of the fertilized egg occurs in the woman who believes it is not a human life.

Sadly, to us, she may still choose to abort this child. At the very least we who hold very strongly that this zygote is a human life in no way desire to participate formally (by consent) or materially (by providing proximate or satellite means) in that termination of life. This particular ruling with Hobby Lobby confirms this belief.

This being said, matters are not always as clear as they appear, even after bringing about better distinctions about what this case is and is not about.

This ruling, then, is not about denying a woman's health. I also believe that there has been for some time and that there should be a more public discussion about what dissenters of this ruling define “health” as, especially how they describe purely contraceptive/abortofacient means as “health”—I can only see them defining contraceptives as a form of preventative health, which to me is a curious evaluation of health (the term) anyhow.

Likewise, I think the great disagreements over this case, often encapsulated by the popular phrase “Keep my boss out of my bedroom,” also strikes at the heart of the public practice-private beliefs issue. In short, our private beliefs inform our public practices. To claim that they could ever be truly separate is at worst a lie and at best a delusion. Any discussion of justice or rights comes from living together and discovering which values are best for the common good and not which values merely allow each to have what he wants—this perhaps is a biggest disagreement and is an answer that has yet to be found, ever. This claim, however, strikes at the heart of the matter. Where we would like to construct a value system that gave us what we wanted, our values may inevitably conflict with the beliefs and values of others.

We could, as some have tried, to struggle so that our values are so valueless that each gets what he wants. Human beings, however, do not regard beliefs as valueless. Even the desire as some to find the perfect value-neutral rules hold these rules as having supreme legal, personal, or rational value. Ultimately, if the Hobby Lobby case has taught us anything, is that we as men and women living together in society can not escape a serious discussion about values. Public policy and the common good don't make sense otherwise.


I would also highly recommend this article by