My response to the nasty comments on my post about the Hobby Lobby decision

Seems that some of my correspondents are riled up because one of my posts linked to a site and a point of view with which I agreed. (See the comments below “Top 9 Things the Left Has Wrong About the Supreme Court's Birth Control Ruling,” July 2.) They scolded me because I didn’t provide my own analysis, e.g. “Do the work, Byrnes.”

Well, I wasn’t aware that ChicagoNow has a rule that says that I can’t link to another site without providing my own commentary. In fact, I thought that such linking was encouraged.

I suspect that one reason they were upset is because I linked to the Illinois Right to Life home page, instead of the article itself that I was referencing. I erred in linking to the home page instead of the article. I’ve corrected the error in the original post, and I apologize for the mistake.

Nevertheless, it is fair of my critics to ask that I detail my own views on the subject: the controversial Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision allowing closely held family corporations to be exempt from the Obamacare mandate requiring that employers provide free insurance coverage to their employees for four types of abortifacients.

It’s a question of balancing rights. The right to practice your religion without government interference is the first civil right listed in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. In turn, my critics imply that (1) receiving the free abortifacients is, indeed, a “right,” and (2) that it trumps the constitutional right to religious liberty.

First, I would argue that your right to have your employer give you (via your health insurance) free abortifacients is not a “right” in a strict sense. It is not a civil right in the same sense that you have a right to use public accommodations whatever your race.

Second, for the sake of argument let’s suppose that it is a right. So it must be asked: Is that right superior to the right to religious liberty? Here we have the Constitution, law (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA) and case law that clearly lay out your right to practice your religion free of government interference. But we have only a bureaucratic-imposed rule that gives you the “right” to the four free abortifacients. I risk saying that the constitution trumps a bureaucratic rule.

But like every constitutional right, freedom of religion is not an absolute right. Just like your right to a firearm is not unlimited. Nor is free speech. So, how do we balance our religious liberty rights with the so-called right to free abortifacients?

Here is what the court said in the Hobby Lobby case:

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the “Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” [Emphasis added.]

Does the gift of four free abortifacients trump the fundamental, constitutionally protected right to practice your religion? I think not. And even if it did, is there a better, less restrictive means of providing the abortifacients?

As the high court’s opinion stated:

There are other ways in which Congress or [the Department of Health and Human Services] could equally ensure that every woman has cost-free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed, to all FDA-approved contraceptives.

In fact, the Obama administration has done that.

Perhaps my critics, forced into a corner, would argue that those four abortifacients cannot be obtained in other ways, or that they are more important than protecting the fundamental right of religious freedom. Considering the quality of their responses to my post, they probably would be willing to make such a ludicrous argument.

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  • An IUD is $1200 without insurance. Want to know how I found that out? When I went in at my 6-week postpartum appointment after my 2nd child, I asked for a copper IUD and I was talked into a plastic one which caused me problems. I went back and had the IUD removed and when I insisted on the original type I wanted, I was told insurance only covers the cost once in a two-year period. I would now have to pay $1200 out of pocket. It was too expensive.

    I subsequently got pregnant with twins, once of whom died halfway through the pregnancy and I was forced to carry that dead baby to term in order to save her twin, who is now 8 months old. It was the worst time in my life.

    Tell me, to my face, I'm a horrible person. Go on. I dare you. Do you think what I have been though is worth it for your little political agenda? Do you think the pain of what I went though is a good idea to foist upon women in general? To be denied birth control options that suit them (the difference between the copper IUD vs. the plastic one, pills and shots is hormones).

    Should I inject my body with hormones to suit your agenda? Should I stop being such a whore by having sex with the man I married 7 years ago and had three children with? Should I just have an endless row of babies, one on top of each other to clog up the school system and eventually go on the public dole because I can't afford 25 children? Should I keep having babies until I collapse and die?

    Actually, don't answer any of those questions because its none of your goddamn business what happens inside my body.

    Maybe one day I'll strike it rich and buy the Tribune and become your boss and convert to strict Christian Science and decide I don't believe my employees should get heart medicine or insulin. I hope you don't have diabetes, Byrnes! I hope you don't have a heart attack!

  • In reply to Jenna Karvunidis:

    My hearing aids cost me $3,000. They aren't covered by insurance. Should the government step in and require that insurance pay for them? Sure, not hearing isn't as bad as what you went through. I'm truly sorry that you did, and I don't think you're a horrible person, although I gather from your tone that you think I am. I don't wish you ill. I'm trying to conduct a rational discussion and you unload personal attacks. It's disappointing that you didn't address substance of the commentary that you demanded I do. But then again, I didn't expect you too.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Yeah, you just compared your old man hearing to my loss of a child.

    I will address that though. Your hearing aid not being covered under your insurance plan isn't a moral decision from your employer attempting to mettle in your life. It's a financial decision and that is not the argument against covering IUDs.

    "Personal attacks" is a pretty strong accusation. Please, cut and paste the personal attack I made. If you read, you will see I said that what happens inside my body is none of your business.

    It's also not my employer's.

  • In reply to Jenna Karvunidis:

    How many times does it have to be said? Nobody is being denied anything; access is available through other administration programs. Did you even read the decision?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Oh, you mean public health insurance. You know, the next natural step (after many employers realize that for a small fee they can side-step offering health insurance altogether) is for the country to switch to socialized medicine. You know, expand medicare to an all-ages system.

    I'm so glad you have come over to the progressive way of seeing things! I had no idea you were such a liberal!

  • In reply to Jenna Karvunidis:

    Actually, when I started writing my column for the Sun-Times in 1986, I was a liberal. In the JFK and LBJ mold. I didn't abandon liberalism; it abandoned me.

  • In reply to Jenna Karvunidis:

    Jenna you are a complete moron.

  • I'm not sure how anyone's religious freedom is impacted by making basic reproductive services and medications available to individuals who have a need for them. No one is being forced to use "abortifacients". Persons of your religious persuasion should definitely not use contraceptives if they believe it is against their religious faith. People who do not hold the same religious beliefs as you do, should have the "freedom" to choose medication which is legal and prevents pregnancies. Why must you impose your religious views on everyone in the country? I didn't believe that entering the Iraqi war was morally legitimate. Some people don't believe in war as a part of their religion. Their tax dollars are used for wars they don't believe in, and they have the freedom not to participate in those wars on a personal level. Why are your religious beliefs so special and why do you feel you can impose them on others? Why do employers have any say at all at all in a person's medical decisions? I'm afraid the "liberty" that is being denied that you speak of, does not limit anyone's religious beliefs or actions, it only limits American citizens from obtaining comprehensive health care. Did I mention contraceptives are legal? Please feel free to have a hundred children, if you wish!

  • In reply to Larissa:

    You make a sweeping, unwarranted assumption. My religious beliefs do not oppose contraceptives. The Hobby Lobby decision was not about all contraception. Hobby Lobby, in fact, has covered the cost of 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives. I suspect you didn't read (or try to understand) the argument that I make, i.e. how does one balance a constitutional right against the right to have free access to the four abortificients in question. Yes, there are legitimate questions about what religious beliefs should be exempt under RFPA. You make a good point about personal objections to war. But if you read the court's opinion, you'll see that question addressed. You'll also notice that the court said that "there are other ways in which Congress or [the Department of Health and Human Services] could equally ensure that every woman has cost-free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed, to all FDA-approved contraceptives." In other words, Hobby Lobby's exercise of its religious believes does not deny anyone access to the drugs and devices in question. Like Jenna, you did not discuss or respond to the substance of the court's decision. Was the court wrong when it said that HHS has alternative provisions? Is there not a need to balance rights, or are some rights absolute?

  • In my opinion, the heart of the problem lies in the court's acceptance of the concept that corporations are individuals. I heartily believe they are not. When owners of a company incorporate, they enjoy certain protections to which individual business owners are not entitled. Corporate owners renig on the responsibility to personally go bankrupt if thir businesses fail. They do not go to jail if th corporation breaks the law, regardless of the facts that as corporate owners they make the decision to break the law. By not having to shoulder these types of responsibilities, they are not like an individual subject to these natural "personal" consequences of making bad decisions. This court decision assigned the right for profit making corporations the right to be a a "person" under the RFPA along with nonprofits. Perhaps Congress needs to revisit this law and eliminate any of the rights assigned to any type of corporation. Just a the court interpreted the definition of a person to include corporations, the Hobby Lobby decision further mucks up the very clear intent of the founding fathers in adopting the Bill of Rights to specify individual rights in the first 10 amendments. They were clear in their intent to protect individual people from the power of institutions - governmental, religious or private. By redefining the term "person". This court has opened the door to oligarchy and theocracy replacing our democracy. These decisions have been frightening in how they twist original intent. To take this to its most basic terms, I do not believe a multi- billion dollar corporation has First amendment rights, however, the individual owners of Hobby Lobby certainly do and can practice their own religion as they see fit on an individual basis as long as they do not impact the rights of others as written in the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. Hopefully, we'll see the day when the Citizens United decision and all such subsequent decisions assigning "personhood" to manmade entities are reversed by the representatives of the citizens of the United States. I agree individual rights need to be balanced (not shouting "fire" in a crowded theater), but not twisted to accommodate corporate interests and the quest for power.

  • In reply to Larissa:

    Your points are well taken. The question of corporate personhood is complex and ages old, finding its origins in common law. Obviously, corporate persons are not the same as individual persons and I don't think that anyone is arguing that they are. The point is that corporations are recognized as legal persons insofar as they can, for example, sue or be sued. However (not to drag a red herring into the argument), I think that a fetus (at some point in gestation) has a better claim to personhood than does a corporation.

  • Speaking of "personhood", when was the last time your parish priest baptized either a corporation or a fetus? Is it possible that, at least for this purpose, neither one is viewed as a "person"?

  • Time after time, Dennis Byrne dives into the muck, resorting to half-truths and hyperbole while vilifying those with whom he disagrees. But when others dare to question his arguments, such as they are, he claims he's the one trying to promote rational discourse.

  • My company generously pays for cars. They will pay for Fords, Chevys, and Hondas. I want a Buick. They will not pay for it. Therefore, my company is against cars and denying me my right to transportation.

    You demonstrate logic and reason to a world that no longer has any use or understanding of the concepts. Histrionics will always win the day.

  • In reply to Rick Bohning:

    "Histrionics will always win the day." I'm afraid you're right.

  • In reply to Rick Bohning:

    I get the analogy, but where it fails is with the assumption that all contraception is equally efficacious in all cases.

  • Like, say, calling contraceptives "abortifacients" when they're not, or calling people anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel's foreign policy.

  • In reply to hatch3:

    A rose by any other name... The methods exempted prevent an otherwise viable fertilized zygote from implanting in the uterus. People of religious conscious call that killing a life.

    Also, two logical fallacies in the above: appeal to ridicule and poisoning the well.

  • In reply to Rick Bohning:

    The logical fallacy is suggesting that preventing a pregnancy is the equivalent of abortion. People of religious "conscious" can call a whale a goldfish, but that doesn't make it so.

  • In reply to hatch3:

    I take it then that you do not disagree with Rick's description of what happens to a viable fertilized zygote. "Preventing a pregnancy" is what otherwise is known as killing a viable fertilized zygote. It is an abortion in that a life, possessing its own unique DNA, is snuffed out.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    I think I'll go with the experts on this one.

    "4. Does this mean that emergency contraception can cause an abortion?

    Emergency contraception will not disrupt an established pregnancy."

  • In reply to hatch3:

    Another logical fallacy: appeal to authority. Just because the experts claim it to be true, does not make it so.

    The operative word being "established pregnancy". A pregnancy is established when the zygote is implanted in the the uterine lining. But, according to the religious beliefs of many, life begins not at implantation, but at fertilization.

  • In reply to hatch3:

    hatch3: Another logical fallacy: straw man fallacy. Misrepresent my argument and shoot down that misrepresentation.

    Tell you learn even a modicum of logic...I'll learn to use the right homonym, and then we can continue this debate.

  • I don't see how covering these contraceptives for their employees is violating the religious freedom of the owners of Hobby Lobby (the Greens?). The government is not forcing them to use any.

    Their opposition is puzzling especially when you consider that their Employee Retirement Plan invests in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and other companies that manufacture and/or distribute these pills or devices.

    How do you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Logical fallacy: Ad Hominem Tu Quoque. Look it up. In short, hypocrisy does not make or break truth claims.


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