Why Feminists And Liberals Are Misrepresenting The Hobby Lobby Decision

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion,” former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan liked to say, “but not to his own facts.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby, Americans are getting more of the former and less of the latter.

In this case, a fairly moderate decision exempting the owners of a company who want to exercise their rights of conscience — their hope misguided or noble, to be conscientious objectors in the sexual revolution — should have been universally applauded but has instead been demonized as “anti-woman.”

The facts are these: Hobby Lobby is a chain of arts and crafts stores, which, upon discovering that the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, would mandate it provide birth control products, decided to offer just 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptive options (covering only the drugs they viewed as “preventive,” while not covering the four they believe to be abortifacients).

Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the majority opinion, declared that closely held corporations (thought to be family-owned and not publicly traded) could not be forced to pay for contraceptive coverage that violated their deeply held religious beliefs.

The 5-4 decision was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, bipartisan legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. In short, the decision declares that the mandate “imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise” and that there are “other ways in which Congress or HHS could equally ensure that every woman has cost-free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed, to all FDA-approved contraceptives.”

This is all nuanced, but you wouldn’t know that by the reaction of some of America’s feminists, who instantly sought to misrepresent the decision. And I’m not talking about Ms. Magazine — or random people on Twitter who might not have known better. Everyone from filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got it wrong, and one presumes, at least in some cases, intentionally.

In a tweet heard ’round the world, Dunham declared, “Women’s access to birth control should not be denied because of their employer’s religious beliefs.” This would be a valid point were it not for the fact that nobody can deny women birth control. Hobby Lobby was already covering 16 of the 20 options; women always had the right to purchase whatever they wanted from the drug store on their own and, as Alito argued in his majority opinion, the government might likely decide they have a compelling interest to pay for the contraception.

“It’s very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health-care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception,” said Hillary Clinton at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week — a canard which earned her “Two Pinocchios” from the Washington Post’s fact checker.

Rather than applauding the government’s flexibility in making an accommodation for people of faith, the Left decided to play identity politics. The decision “featured all three women justices ruling for the workers, and all five Catholic men ruling for the corporation,” observed a writer at The Nation — one of many who thought it appropriate to cite the gender and religion of the Justices in the majority.

The really bad news is that there continues to be a major incentive for activists and politicians to stoke division and anger — even when that requires constructing a simplistic, or even false, narrative. The Hobby Lobby decision (and the reaction to it) is merely the latest example of this unfortunate trend. 

Having invented a bogus “war on women” concept to help defeat Mitt Romney in 2012, one can only imagine that whoever is unlucky enough to run against Hillary Clinton will be tagged as a misogynistic troglodyte who encourages gender pay inequality — and perhaps even rape?

Unfortunately, we the people are the collateral damage in this supposed “war on women.” And if the most brutal wars are so-called”civil” wars, pitting brother against brother, then pitting male against female, husband against wife, is simply unconscionable.

“To make an omelette you need not only those broken eggs but someone ‘oppressed’ to beat them,” observed Joan Didion in her classic 1972 essay, The Women’s Movement. She was, perhaps, ahead of her time in figuring out the Left’s political strategy for winning the future: “They had invented a class; now they had only to make that class conscious.”