Awaiting Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, public favors contraception mandate

June 25, 2014


The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to finally issue its ruling this week in the highly anticipated case of the craft companies vs. Obamacare. 

Technically,  it’s Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a showdown over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate. The core legal question is whether a private company can have religious rights.

But to the general public, this is seen as a showdown between employers ― the evangelical Green family behind Hobby Lobby and the Mennonite Hahn family that owns the Conestoga cabinet company ― and the employees’ personal reproductive choices under their insurance. 

While conservatives have cast the battle as one for religious freedom, the general public may see it as a showdown over personal health choices.

Public opinion polls zeroed in on the ABC words: abortion and birth control: Must employers offer insurance coverage for contraceptive services they consider to be abortifacient (blocking a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb) if they have sincere religious objection to abortion?

And the polls consistently find most Americans support the mandate, even when business owners object on religious grounds.

The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, released in April, found “the public supports the requirement by a nearly 2-to-1 margin (61 percent support, 32 percent oppose).”

Kaiser also asked specifically about requiring coverage in the Hobby Lobby scenario: Should a for-profit business owner with religious objections to birth control be subject to the requirement? Again, a majority (55 percent) said yes, they should, “even if it violates their owners’ personal religious beliefs.” 

Even so, 40 percent of respondents said for-profit companies should not be required to offer this insurance coverage “even if it means their female employees will have to pay the cost of birth control themselves.” 

In February 2012, when furor over the mandate first ignited, the findings were similar. A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute at the time found that 55 percent of Americans agreed “employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” 

Response divided by religious lines and by gender. Favoring the requirement: 

  • 62 percent of women, but only 47 percent of men
  • 61 percent of people with no religious identity
  • 50 percent of white mainline Protestants
  • 58 percent of Catholics
  • 38 percent of evangelical Protestants

Americans’ views on the mandate may be shaped by their opinions on contraception. Gallup looked into this in May 2012, and found 89 percent of all Americans, including 82 percent of Catholics, say “birth control is morally acceptable.”

It’s also popular. A May 2013 fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health and rights issues, found: 

  • More than 99 percent of women aged 15–44  who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.
  • Some 62 percent of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method.

Hobby Lobby already covers all the most popularly used methods of birth control in its health plan, including pills and barrier methods such as condoms and sterilization (more than 90 percent of the methods most used by Americans, according to Guttmacher) that work by preventing conception.

Where the evangelical owners drew the line was at covering devices such as IUDs or medications such as Plan B that can work by blocking implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, thus preventing a successful pregnancy.

But many in the public are aware that a decision that favors Hobby Lobby would affect Catholic business owners who follow their church’s teaching against artificial birth control that prevents conception as well.

  1. What part of "Thou shalt not kill" is open for interpretation?

    by Rick Ridgway

    July 9, 2014

  2. This article is in line with the new PC (USA) worldview. Theology & church policies by poll numbers...What happened to basing our decisions on the Bible and, in the USA, on the Constitution?

    by Bruce Woods

    June 27, 2014

  3. This denomination, based on this article and ones like it and this year's GA, is done as currently constituted. It is up to the Presbyteries to stop this which probably won't happen. As a Ruling Elder in PCUSA I can no longer entertain the idea of unity. Separation has become the only option.

    by Frank

    June 26, 2014

  4. I Find it disturbing that this article is supposed to be about constitutional rights, and yet it is all about poll numbers. Polls are really pretty much irrelevant to this question.

    by David KEster

    June 25, 2014

  5. Did you ever notice that when the PC (USA) pushes some aspect of the left-wing political agenda they do so under the banners of "poll numbers" (which can easily be manipulated but are, on constitutional or religious grounds irrelevant anyway); "legality" (just because something is legal doesn't mean that it's moral or supported by the Bible - often the opposite); "the Bible doesn't speak to this issue" (yes, if one is blind or has a superficial grasp of the Scripture, the Bible may seem mute on an issue BUT frequently true is that it DOES speak to the issue and is ignored OR some wacko invents a screwball interpretation of a passage to buttress a shallow argument). If you choose to be in the sin-justifying business it's real easy to get into.

    by Baker

    June 25, 2014

  6. Constitutional rights are not about poll numbers. Constitutions provide rights that are supposed to be inviolable and above the whim of the public mob. So now, how about an article that looks at the Constitution of the US and this law and the implications of it being declared Constitutional - bearing in mind that precedents often open up the pathway to more far reaching acts and laws? One might also find it refreshing to see an article exploring Biblical attitudes towards abortion along with an exploration of whether there I a relationship between the spread of infidelity and increased use of birth control and abortion.

    by David

    June 25, 2014

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