From the March 25 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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The Wall Street Journal gave credence to Hobby Lobby's scientifically-disproven view that emergency contraceptives are abortifacients by privileging the claims of the corporation, currently fighting to expand corporate personhood with the notion that the Affordable Care Act's "contraception mandate" violates its religious liberty.
On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, a case that could allow secular, for-profit corporations an unprecedented religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) "contraception mandate," which requires all insurance plans to cover preventive health services without co-pays, including birth control. The owners of Hobby Lobby argue that the contraception mandate will force them to violate their religious beliefs by requiring them to offer insurance that covers forms of emergency contraception -- namely the morning after pill and IUDs -- that they incorrectly equate with abortion.
The Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin privileged that falsehood on March 24, highlighting Hobby Lobby's beliefs without mention that the science is settled against the corporation: IUDs and the morning-after pill are not akin to abortion:
The companies' owners, who are, respectively, evangelical and Mennonite Christians, say they consider emergency contraceptives--"morning after" pills and some intrauterine devices--to be forms of abortion, which is anathema to their religious beliefs. For the corporations to win, the court must find that including such contraceptives in company-sponsored insurance would "substantially burden" their owners' religious exercise, unjustified by a "compelling government interest."
On the eve of Supreme Court oral arguments over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that businesses offer insurance plans that include contraception coverage as part of their preventive services, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that abortion and euthanasia are part of this coverage.
On the March 24 edition of The Kelly File, Napolitano said of the case (emphasis added):
NAPOLITANO: As everybody knows, the Affordable Care Act requires anybody that employs 50 or more people to provide health care for them that includes contraceptive services. Contraceptive services means contraception, euthanasia, and abortion.
Napolitano is completely wrong. As the Kaiser Family Foundation explains, the preventive coverage includes "FDA approved contraceptives," and "abortion coverage is specifically banned from being required as part of the essential benefits package." The only drug approved by the FDA to induce abortion is not included in this coverage. Further, medical providers and insurance companies are legally protected under the Affordable Care Act if they choose not to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide services to patients.
The issues of abortion and euthanasia are not relevant to the cases currently before the Supreme Court. The cases -- two separate lawsuits involving Conestoga Wood Products and the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby -- focus on the question of whether corporations have the same religious protections as individuals. The companies have claimed they cannot be forced to provide health coverage for contraceptives as mandated by the ACA.
Watch the segment below:
From the March 24 edition of MSNBC's The Reid Report:
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On March 25, Hobby Lobby, a secular, for-profit corporation, plans to wrongly argue before the Supreme Court that emergency contraception, a form of preventive service like birth control that all health insurance policies must cover under the Affordable Care Act, amounts to abortion, and thus violates the corporation's religious liberty. Here's what media should know about the contraception at issue.
Newspaper coverage of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood lawsuits downplayed the possibility that the Supreme Court could expand the concept of corporate personhood when ruling on the cases, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage for birth control based on the owners' personal religious beliefs. Only 3 out of 24 articles on the case in five major U.S. newspapers mentioned the potential unpopular expansion of corporate rights in the headline or first sentence.
USA Today allowed a deeply misleading op-ed to endorse the conservative plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act's "contraceptive mandate" before the Supreme Court in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, without disclosing the author's professional connections to Hobby Lobby's owners.
On March 23, USA Today published an opinion piece by Ken Starr, former Clinton-era independent counsel and current president of Baylor University, arguing in favor of Hobby Lobby, the for-profit, secular corporation currently challenging the availability of women's preventive services in health insurance under the ACA. And yet USA Today did not disclose the fact that as part of its religious mission, Baylor has a professional relationship with the owners of Hobby Lobby.
Baylor explained its partnership with the Green family, Hobby Lobby's founding owners, in its alumni magazine:
Over the past few years, the Green family has become involved with the university through Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) and the Green Scholars Initiative (GSI). A partnership with the family has established Baylor as a major research partner and an academic home for the GSI's primary undergraduate program. Baylor plays a leadership role in providing undergraduate and graduate coursework and research.
The website of the Green Scholars Initiative confirms this close relationship between the Greens and Baylor.
This professional connection between Hobby Lobby and the author of an op-ed supporting the business' position before the Supreme Court should have been disclosed by USA Today, especially in light of Starr's extremely biased explanation of the case and outright inaccuracies. From his op-ed:
As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in the next big reproductive rights case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, some of right-wing media's favorite talking points about women and sex have made their way into amicus briefs filed with the Court.
On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Hobby Lobby, a case that could allow secular, for-profit corporate employers to impose their religious beliefs about birth control on employees by blocking their right to obtain contraceptives on company insurance plans. A ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would not only significantly impact the religious freedoms of employees who have no moral objection to preventive health services like birth control, it would have a sweeping effect on years of corporate law precedent. But that hasn't stopped conservative, religious, and anti-reproductive rights groups from filing amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in favor of Hobby Lobby's position, parroting arguments often heard in right-wing media.
In a recent article in Slate, legal expert Emily Bazelon detailed how many of these amicus briefs, filed largely by religious conservatives, voiced arguments from a bygone era when it comes to reproductive rights. Bazelon wrote, "If it sounds like I'm describing a 1960s enraged sermon about the pill, I guess that's the point[.] I could be":
The Supreme Court will soon hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, a case that could allow secular, for-profit corporations an unprecedented religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act's "contraception mandate," which requires all health insurance to cover preventive services like birth control without co-pays. A wide spectrum of scholars and experts have filed amicus briefs explaining that a ruling in favor of the corporate plaintiffs would not only rewrite First Amendment law, but also undermine decades of anti-discrimination and reproductive rights precedent.
New research confirms that providing women access to free birth control does not result in women having sex with more partners -- a false claim that has been repeatedly pushed and promoted by conservative media, and which contributes to their efforts to stigmatize women's sexuality.
Providing women with no-cost contraception did not result in "riskier" sexual behavior (defined by the researchers as "sex with multiple partners") but did reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, according to a comprehensive study from the Washington University School of Medicine.
As Amanda Duberman noted at the Huffington Post, having new empirical data to push back on the moralizing arguments against birth control is helpful, but raises the question: "why do we care?" The fact that researchers felt the need to study this particular claim about birth control at all reveals an "implicit stigmatization" of women's sexuality (emphasis added):
It is a small, pervasive set of voices that leads researchers to consider "multiple sexual partners" over the course of an entire year "risky sexual behavior."
The past decade of research has confirmed what women's health advocates already knew: the benefits of reducing barriers to birth control access far outweigh any subjectively determined adverse effects.
What's unfortunate is that making a case for something many women need relies on the implicit stigmatization of their sexuality. That researchers and health advocates need to presume harsh judgement of sexually active women to convince skeptics of birth control's utility just reminds us how far we have to go.
Duberman is right; it should not matter whether women have more or less sex when taking birth control pills. But it's not just a small set of conservative political voices pushing this offensive criticism of women's sexuality and inspiring scientific research. Conservative media have played a role in forcing this conversation, repeatedly slut-shaming women who use birth control and insisting that anyone who supports government funding for free contraceptives is equivalent to a prostitute.
From the March 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News host Megyn Kelly and senior political analyst Brit Hume were shocked by the suggestion that Arizona's anti-gay law might allow "a Christian doctor who is deeply conservative in his religious views to deny treatment" to patients on the basis of sexual orientation, an interesting change of pace for a network that has no problems regularly defending the religiously-based denial of women's health services.
In a February 25 segment on Fox's The Kelly File, Kelly and Hume agreed that the Arizona law -- which could provide legal protections to religious business owners who deny services and accommodations to gay couples on the basis of their sexual orientation -- went too far because the possibility of denying medical services to gay people was "an order of magnitude greater than the legal right to deny services to a gay wedding":
But neither Kelly nor Hume managed to point out the obvious -- Christian doctors are already enabled to deny services to all women on religious grounds.
Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.
Talking about women's access to health care on Valentine's Day is akin to urging women to get a 'traditional' abortion for the holiday, according to conservative media.
This week Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards posted a Vine video on Twitter promoting access to basic women's health care, using the hashtag #WhatWomenNeed:
In the short video, Richards held placards detailing what women need this Valentine's Day: "birth control," "cancer screenings," "safe and legal abortions," "well woman visits," "breast exams," "maternity care," "preventive care," "Planned Parenthood," "To make our own decisions."
The notion was offensive to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who accused Planned Parenthood of "urging women to get abortions for Valentine's Day." According to Limbaugh, the tweet evidenced how Democrats "see women as basically walking vaginas looking to have sex every change they get":
LIMBAUGH: Democrats see women as basically just walking vaginas. Democrats see women as nothing but walking vaginas looking to have sex every chance they get, and then they go get an abortion whenever they need one, or they got to get them birth control pills or whatever. If you listen to your average liberal Democrat talk about women, that's it. That's what they think the only thing women are concerned about is, is making sure they can have sex whenever they want to have it, and then they're covered, either with contraception or an abortion. And anybody who opposes that is obviously engaged in a war on women. It's nonsense.
Limbaugh wasn't alone in his attacks. Drudge Report promoted a Breitbart.com article about Richards' tweet with the headline:
Breitbart.com's Robert Wilde alleged that Richards was advocating for an "abortion tradition" on Valentine's Day, writing:
In a global Internet search of the varied customs of Valentine's day expressions of love, there were zero mentions of other abortion traditions. It appears that Ms. Richards can safely claim that she is the seminal inspiration for the "avant-garde" concept that having an abortion is a value to be shared on Valentine's day.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker baselessly criticized President Obama for his administration's "willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country," citing right-wing legal challenges to insurance coverage of birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a lawsuit that was filed by the previous administration, not the current one.
In a recent column, Parker complained that Obama's decision to speak out against attacks on religious freedom overseas during the National Prayer Breakfast was done "without a hint of irony," because Obama failed to mention the "eroding protections of religious liberty" in the United States. Parker pointed to several high-profile cases as evidence of the Obama administration's supposed "challenge [to] religious liberty in this country." Parker overlooked the fact that the right-wing legal arguments that form the basis of these cases are a radical departure from settled corporate law precedent and the "well-established" religious accommodation practice for objectors toward neutral laws like the ACA's "contraception mandate." Parker also went on to claim that a separate Supreme Court decision in 2012 that ruled in favor of a church's discriminatory hiring practices was further evidence of the Obama administration's attack on religious liberty:
President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast -- and one is reluctant to criticize.
But pry my jaw from the floorboards.
Without a hint of irony, the president lamented eroding protections of religious liberty around the world.
Just not, apparently, in America.
Nary a mention of the legal challenges to religious liberty now in play between this administration and the Catholic Church and other religious groups, as well as private businesses that contest the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.
Missing was any mention of Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor -- whose cases have recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court and that reveal the Obama administration's willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country.
The more germane question to cases such as Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters is whether the government can accomplish its goal of making free contraception available without burdening religious objectors. Can't women in Colorado get contraception without forcing the Little Sisters, a group of nuns who care for the elderly, to violate their core beliefs? Their charitable work could not long survive under penalties the government would impose on them for noncompliance.
For now, the Little Sisters have been granted a reprieve, thanks to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Arguments in the Hobby Lobby case are scheduled for March, with a decision expected in June. Meanwhile, another case settled in 2012 reveals much about this administration's willingness to challenge religious freedom. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the question boiled down to whether the government can decide whom a church hires as minister. Since when?