PORT ARTHUR — The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling has been making headlines since its announcement Monday. In the aftermath of the court's controversial decision, Americans are left searching for answers to a fundamental question: “How do I protect my rights while still respecting those of everyone else?”
The Hobby Lobby ruling has dropped us into new, unexplored territory — an America where corporations can hold religious beliefs, a school of thought doesn't have to be true in order to be “sincerely held,” and an employer or small group of company shareholders can make healthcare decisions concerning female employees' access to contraception.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling was a victory for religious freedom, allowing family-owned businesses to make their own decisions without government interference,” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber said in a release.
As defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, contraception is one of many “preventative services that have strong evidence of their health benefits.” The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to not only provide preventative care, but to offer such services at no cost to the patient when delivered by a network provider.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby — the Oklahoma-based chain of arts-and-craft stores that challenged the preventative services mandate — can opt out of providing such services.
The justices determined certain corporations could decline contraception coverage because the Affordable Care Act preventative services mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which requires the government to show a “compelling reason for any law that substantially burdens” a person's religious beliefs, as well as to provide proof that the law is the least restrictive way of achieving its goals.
Expanding the RFRA to include closely-held corporations isn’t as irrational as some have presented it, Jennifer Bard, a School of Law professor and School of Medicine adjunct associate professor at Texas Tech University, said in a phone interview.