Yet Another Reason Why Employers Should NOT Have Control of OUR Health Care Insurance

Conservative Court Says Religious Employers Can Deny Their Workers Birth Control

— by Ian Millhiser on Jun 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

An eight-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit struck a major blow against Obama Administration rules ensuring that most workers’ health plans will cover birth control. Although Thursday’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius leaves a few procedural stones unturned before courts can begin carving holes in the birth control rules, it leaves little doubt that a majority of the court’s judges will allow employers with religious objections to birth control to withhold birth control from their employees.

The Supreme Court established more than three decades ago that a company may not “impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees.” As the Court explained in United States v. Lee, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” So there should be little doubt that the employer in this case, a national chain of crafting retailers, must comply with a law requiring them to include birth control coverage in their health plans. Religious objections cannot be imposed upon an employer’s workers.

The Tenth Circuit’s majority, however, brushes past this aspect of the Lee opinion, although it somehow manages to rely on Lee for the proposition that religious employers’ right to immunize themselves from the law is much more robust than many other courts have held. Simply put, the opinion is a disaster for workers whose bosses cite religious justifications for ignoring their employees’ legal rights.

The majority opinion does not simply conclude that a for profit corporation may assert a religious objection to a law — itself a questionable proposition — it even opens the door to “a large publicly traded corporation tr[ying] to assert religious rights” (although the court does admit that it would be difficult for Walmart to prove that its alleged religious beliefs are sincere). It defines an important limit on religious liberty cases, the requirement that the plaintiff show that a law “substantially burdens” their exercise of religion, so narrowly as to render this limit a nullity in many cases. And it even includes some language suggesting that religious employers could successfully object to laws ensuring “gender equality.”

The last part of the court’s reasoning is significant because it portends the next strike religious conservatives are likely to launch if they win their case against the birth control rules — empowering people with conservative religious beliefs to ignore anti-discrimination laws. As social conservative writer Ross Douthat argued shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the march towards marriage equality may be inevitable, but conservatives can still undermine this march by “build[ing] in as many protections for religious liberty as possible along the way.” Similarly, laws forbidding discrimination against gay workers will be drastically reduced in effectiveness if employers who bear religiously motivated animus against gay people can simply ignore those laws. Today, religious conservatives have their sights set on women who use birth control. If they win, gay people are next.

Seven Terrible State Bills

— by ThinkProgress War Room | Mar 27, 2013

Recently, we discussed some of the terrible bills floating around out there in state legislatures. Here’s another look at some of the worst proposals, including a couple that were signed into law this week:

  • NORTH DAKOTA: The state’s Republican governor signed a trifecta of terrible anti-abortion bills, which are likely to have the effect of banning abortion in the state. One bill unconstitutionally bans abortion after just six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. An even more insidious bill takes up the anti-abortion movement’s favorite new tactic: drastic overregulation of abortion clinics to all but guarantee that they will have to close. These so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are also moving in North CarolinaMississippiTexasAlabama, and Virginia.
  • KANSAS: A new bill will allow the state to quarantine HIV positive individuals, something Kansas actually banned back in 1988.
  • INDIANA: An anti-abortion bill was going to mandate forced ultrasounds before a woman is provided with the abortion pill. Lawmakers explain that they are dropping the controversial provision in order to focus on their real goal: regulating abortion clinics out of existence.
  • VIRGINIA: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed a bill that will mandate that Virginians present photo identification when they vote, which will disproportionately impact young people, minorities, and the elderly.
  • KENTUCKY: The legislature passed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that allows individuals to ignore laws based on the vague notion of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people, among other problems. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but unfortunately his veto was overridden yesterday.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Top Republicans in the state have yet to abandon a GOP plan to rig steal the White House by rigging the distribution of the state’s Electoral College votes. Republicans in Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states dropped the idea, but Pennsylvania Republicans are keeping it on the table.
  • ARKANSAS: In addition to its race to the bottom on abortion, Arkansas is considering some highly regressive tax changes. As part of an effort meant to stimulate growth, an Arkansas legislative committee passed two tax cuts that will largely benefit the rich and then rejected one that would benefit the working poor. A recent study found that state-level tax cuts don’t promote job growth.

Another week, another set of terrible proposals moving out in state legislatures.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Republicans Admit Intention To Sugarcoat Their Opposition To LGBT Equality

— By Zack Ford on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

The Republican Party continues to struggle with its intentions moving forward in regards to LGBT equality. In its autopsy report of the 2012 elections — its “Growth & Opportunity Project” — the gay community was the one group that the Party was not actually interested in reaching out to. Instead, the plan was to convince young people to support conservative principles even if they support LGBT rights. Since then, GOP chairman Reince Priebus has attempted to model this by citing his own marriage as an example for building bridges and suggesting Mike Huckabee, a very vocal opponent of equality, be an ambassador on gay issues.

This week, both Priebus and potential presidential prospect Jeb Bush have both been a bit more candid about their intentions to simply sugarcoat their opposition to equality so it doesn’t sound so anti-gay. Bush told Newsmax that a different tone that expresses opposition to same-sex marriage “in a civil way” that is “not judgmental” would help keep conservatives united:

BUSH: I know for a fact that as it relates to gay marriage and other social issues there is growing divergence of opinion on this. When we talk about it, we ought to talk about it with a different tone — and we ought to talk about it recognizing that there is more than one point of view, and we should talk about it in a way that is not judgmental. If we can get to that point where people who have diverging points of view and express them in a civil way, the conservative coalition can stay intact.

Priebus, in turn, told USA Today that opposition to equality can be presented with “grace and respect”:

We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform (emphasis added),” Priebus said in an interview Monday on USA TODAY’s Capital Download video series. “But it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party” who support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.

“I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics,” he said, saying Republicans “have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”

What the Republican Party cannot seem to accept is that no polishing of this message amounts to respect, grace, or civil discourse. Inequality is inequality, and no changes in tone can change that the GOP platform specifically calls for one group of people to be treated as second-class citizens.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Personhood … It’s Time to Start Demanding TWO votes!

Most of us were thrilled to see the end of the 112th Congress come to pass and the end to all the onerous bills that were proposed during that session.  It would seem, however, that a number of members of the GOP’s “REPUBLIBAN” learned nothing from the election and are once again trudging forward in their attempts to once again define life as beginning with fertilization of an egg.  To that end, they have once again re-introduced the “Sanctity of Human Life” bill, HR23, on January 3, 2013.  That bill has subsequently been referred to the House Judiciary committee.

Thus far, eighteen members of the REPUBLIBAN have signed on as co-sponsors:

  1. Carter, John [R-TX31]
  2. Conaway, Michael [R-TX11]
  3. Farenthold, Blake [R-TX27]
  4. Fleming, John [R-LA4]
  5. Franks, Trent [R-AZ8]
  6. Gibbs, Bob [R-OH7]
  7. Gingrey, Phil [R-GA11]
  8. Huelskamp, Tim [R-KS1]
  9. Jones, Walter [R-NC3]
  10. Palazzo, Steven [R-MS4]
  11. Pearce, Stevan “Steve” [R-NM2]
  12. Roby, Martha [R-AL2]
  13. Roe, David [R-TN1]
  14. Rogers, Harold “Hal” [R-KY5]
  15. Ryan, Paul [R-WI1]
  16. Terry, Lee [R-NE2]
  17. Westmoreland, Lynn [R-GA3]
  18. Kline, John [R-MN2]

Even though a single-cell fertilized egg cannot support itself, H.R. 23 would exploit our legislative process to impose a specific religious definition of human life in place of the commonly accepted medical one. It is ludicrous that zealots would choose to bestow full constitutional rights to a single cell, while at the same time, they’re actually pursuing legal action to deny rights to an entire class of U.S. Citizens — the LGBT community at large.

The result of passage of a bill such as this would be a host of complications :

  1. There is no absolute guarantee that fertilization will result in “pregnancy.”  How are they going to enforce the implantation of a fertilized egg to a uterine wall?  What’s next, that if we fail to get pregnant, we’ll be subjected to mandatory monitoring of our vaginal secretions to see if we just happen to pass a fertilized egg?  Then what?  Will we be charged with murder or some other ludicrous charge of failure to “whatever”?
  2. What happens if a woman has a miscarriage?  Will she be investigated to see if she willfully caused the miscarriage and thus the death of the cell, embryo, or fetus?  Will they then devise increasing penalties based on the degree of development?
  3. If they define life upon egg fertilization, it ends “all” abortions, including rape, incest, and the life of the mother.  So here’s the conundrum:  If the egg/embryo/fetus is killing the mother, are they going to charge the egg/embryo/fetus with murder when she dies or are they just going to say, “well, it must have been God’s will”?
  4. Abortion would no longer be legal in the United States but would continue to be legal elsewhere in the World.  Are they going to pull the passports of women during their child-bearing years?  What happens if they find out she left the US and got an abortion in another country?  Would she be arrested upon coming through customs?  What If the pregnancy she aborted abroad  resulted initially from rape?  Would the rapist have a cause of action against her, essentially violating her twice?
  5. These guys continually rant about needing to enact “comprehensive” legislation, yet they’ve failed to address the issue of taxation as part of this bill.  If the fertilized egg is granted full constitutional rights, why hasn’t a tax deduction been authorized for that fertilized egg?
  6. How will it affect in-vitro fertilization?  Doctors currently implant more than one egg to get at least one to take.  Then if too many take, they use a procedure called selective reduction to reduce the number of embryos to a realistic number the woman can carry to term (usually one or two). The cost would go up immensely in that only one cell could be fertilized and implanted at a time, else leftover embryos, with their newly legislated “right to life” would have no uteri in which to thrive.  What would then happen to doctor or lab that fertilized those eggs?  What happens to the woman who get’s implanted but can’t bring the that implanted egg to term?
  7. What happens when that fertilized egg fails to develop as expected, or when that baby is born with birth defects?  Is the state going to sue the mother for somehow harming that developing fetus while in utero, thus causing those defects?  Is that just genetics and the luck of the draw, or was it “her” fault some how and blame needs to be lain?
  8. And then, of course, there’s birth control … you know, those little pills that make the uterus hostile to the implantation of a fertilized egg.  Well, you can kiss those goodbye.  Hope you’re good at using the rhythm method or you’ll be having one baby after another — or worse — you’ll be being investigated either for one miscarriage after another, or for “failure to provide a nurturing uterus.”

REPUBLIBAN zealots think “life” is a black or white issue.  It’s just NOT that simple.  There are a myriad of grays in that analysis and no absolutes.  As fond as they are of referring to their sacred “constitution” … maybe they should take a few minutes to read it, and finally realize that women have a constitutional right of freedom from being oppressed by their religion and we also have a constitutional right of privacy in our bedrooms.  I’m sorry, but I am a female, a woman, a member of the human race, not just an incubator for some man’s seed.  “It’s looking more like women need to start taking early pregnancy tests to the voting booth — and if the test comes out positive, they need to start demanding to get two votes.” (Karen Webb, Oklahoma Observer)

Here’s a copy of the text of the bill:

113th CONGRESS — 1st Session — H. R. 23 — January 3, 2013

To provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization.


Mr. BROUN of Georgia (for himself, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. PALAZZO, Mr. HUELSKAMP, Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky, Mr. TERRY, Mr. CARTER, Mr. WESTMORELAND, Mr. FARENTHOLD, Mr. JONES, Mr. ROE of Tennessee, Mr. GIBBS, Mr. GINGREY of Georgia, Mrs. ROBY, Mr. PEARCE, Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin, Mr. CONAWAY, and Mr. FLEMING) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


To provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the ‘Sanctity of Human Life Act’.


In the exercise of the powers of the Congress, including Congress’ power under article I, section 8 of the Constitution, to make necessary and proper laws, and Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States–

(1) the Congress declares that–

(A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and

(B) the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and

(2) the Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.


For purposes of this Act:

(1) FERTILIZATION- The term ‘fertilization’ means the process of a human spermatozoan penetrating the cell membrane of a human oocyte to create a human zygote, a one-celled human embryo, which is a new unique human being.

(2) CLONING- The term ‘cloning’ means the process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, that combines an enucleated egg and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make a human embryo.

(3) HUMAN; HUMAN BEING- The terms ‘human’ and ‘human being’ include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.

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