Following Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, conservatives have been out in force defending the decision, using either empty semi-intelligent rhetoric or just outright stupidity. Most of their claims are dubious assertions about access to contraceptives, often on unfounded opinion they masquerade as fact. MSNBC took five of these myths to task today, debunking each one in kind:
Contraceptives are Cheap
As MSNBC points out, the most effective ones are decidedly not cheap, since they save money over time but have a high cost upfront. IUDs can cost between $500 and $1,000, which includes installation. While the cost of the pill itself is low, not all women can use the pill, and some experience side effects. Citing from an American College of obstetricians and Gynecologists, MSNBC says that:
“Lack of insurance coverage deters many women from choosing a high-cost contraceptive, even if that method is best for her health and lifestyle, and may result in her resorting to a method that places her more at risk for medical complications or improper or inconsistent use.”
Women are already saving money under the contraceptive coverage requirement, which began going into effect in August 2012; an average of $269 per woman, according to a recent report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, or $483 million total in 2013.
There are Only Four Forms of Contraception Affected:
While it’s true that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood only objected to four forms, there are dozens of other plaintiffs in pending cases who object to all birth control. Here’s a list of all the for-profit companies that object to the mandate and who have cases pending; according to the Supreme Court, all they have to do is show sincerity of their beliefs to win. And if Hobby Lobby itself is any kind of guiding example, they can just lie about it.
What’s more, contraceptives are not like diet pills; as mentioned above, different women react in different ways to the different methods. What happens to a woman who can only use one of the four forms that Hobby Lobby no longer offers without side effect?
The Forms of Contraceptive are Actually Abortifacient:
According to MSNBC, preventing egg fertilization isn’t the medical definition of abortion:
The baseline question here is whether potentially and intentionally preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg constitutes abortion. That’s not the medical definition of abortion, which is ending a pregnancy. But let’s say your sincerely held belief is that interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg is tantamount to abortion, as it is for the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood owners. There is very little evidence showing that the objected-to methods – two forms of intrauterine devices and two forms of emergency contraception – even work that way, with the exception of the copper IUD.
According to the amicus brief filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and several other medical associations, “there is no scientific evidence that emergency contraceptives available in the United States and approved by the FDA affect an existing pregnancy.” Instead, they prevent ovulation, so there is no egg to fertilize. That includes the longer-acting Ella: “There is no evidence that [Ella] affects implantation.”
One form of the IUD, known on the market at the Mirena, includes hormones that prevent ovulation. The other, preferred by women who experience side effects from artificial hormones, doesn’t. “When used as emergency contraception” – i.e., after unprotected sexual activity – “the [non-hormonal IUD] could also act to prevent implantation,” according to the amicus.
If you’re keeping count, that’s one out of four that maybe does what the plaintiffs say it does, in the rare instances it’s inserted after unprotected sex – and that’s still not the medical definition of abortion.
The Government Shouldn’t Pay for Contraception:
As MSNBC points out, under the current political realities, this is a laughable suggestion. The Senate Democrats have said that they’ll introduce legislation to fix the gaps left by the ruling, but the odds of it passing are the same odds as Ted Cruz and the Tea Party realizing they’re the butt of our national joke. Alito added that the government can “just add female employees of religious objectors to the same accommodation the objecting non-profits got, where coverage comes directly from the insurer.”
Alito is apparently unaware that 122 religiously affiliated non-profits are suing over that very accommodation. One of the non-profit attorneys called the opt-out form a “permission slip for abortions.” MNSBC points out that Mark Rienzi, the lawyer for the Massachusetts clinic case, wrote yesterday “the court’s reasoning in Hobby Lobby paves the way for the nonprofits to win the same full exemption churches got – in other words, the employee gets no insurance coverage at all.”
As an example of the unlikelihood that the government will offer up a solution anytime soon, MSNBC cites the situation with Title X:
There is an existing family planning funding program for low-income women, Title X, and nearly all House Republicans have already voted to gut it. In the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney promised he would kill the program altogether.
Title X funding has gone down more than two-thirds since 1980, after adjusting for inflation,” said the Guttmacher Institute’s Adam Sonfield. “It is far less funded than it needs to be to fully meet the needs of low-income, uninsured people in this county,” he added. “Adding all of these privately insured people would overload it even more and make it even more vulnerable to political attacks.”
Some commentators have argued that contraception is cheaply available at Planned Parenthood. That would be largely due to the same federal funding that’s under attack, or state administration of it. In numerous states, most notoriously Texas, access to contraception has been sharply curtailed by politicians looking to punish Planned Parenthood for separately provided abortion.
Finally, even if private employers do agree to the accommodation non-profits get, it’s based exclusively on administrative regulation that can change when the occupant of the White House changes. Meaning a one Republican president and it’s all over.
Contraception is Not Vital Healthcare:
Like the previous myth, this one also comes from the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, although more implicitly.
Alito holds at arms’ length the government’s claims that “public health” and “gender equality” are compelling interests, because, he says, they’re too broad. Whether the law serves a “compelling government interest” is part of the test under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was the crucial law in the case. But it’s sufficiently unclear that Alito believes contraceptive access matters at all that Justice Anthony Kennedy felt the need to write separately to “confirm” it.
Contraceptive health benefits are inarguable, according to the leading group for obstetricians and gynecologists, who wrote a brief stating that “pregnancies that are too frequent and too closely spaced, which are more likely when those pregnancies are unintended, put women at significantly greater risk for permanent physical health damage.” Longer intervals, the group asserts, “contribute to better health of infants, children, and women, as well as improving the social and economic roles of women.” Contraceptive can do all those things, and they can help protect the health of women for whom pregnancy can be hazardous or life-threatening.
The group also points out unrelated benefits, such as help controlling “several menstrual disorders, preventing menstrual migraines, treating pelvic pain from endometriosis, and bleeding from uterine fibroids.”
Of course, none of that matters to men like Alito, or the Greens, or the conservatives defending them. It’s not about women, it’s not about babies, and it’s not even the government telling them they have to act like decent human beings. It’s the fact that women are having sex, and nothing more.