“At Hobby Lobby alone, the care of thousands of women in 42 states is at risk. And if the courts side with them, that means millions of women face losing basic health coverage.”
—Stephanie Schriock, EMILY’s List
An email from Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, uses technically true statements to serially exaggerate the potential effects of the Hobby Lobby lawsuit on women’s healthcare.
The Hobby Lobby is a national retail business specializing in crafts and home decor. The business drew national attention for bringing a court challenge against the government’s policy on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare.
Hobby Lobby sued on religious grounds after government regulations stipulated that businesses would have to provide insurance covering the full range of FDA-approved contraception. FDA-approved contraception includes intrauterine devices that may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg as well as prescription drugs like ella, an “emergency contraceptive” likewise thought to prevent implantation. Scientists now question whether emergency contraceptive pills work by preventing implantation, however.
Hobby Lobby contended that the requirement to provide some types of FDA-approved contraception forced the company’s religious owners to choose between subsidizing contraceptive methods that conflict with their pro-life convictions and paying a fine for dropping insurance coverage.
The company’s existing insurance coverage before the new regulations helped pay for contraception. Just not the types of contraception to which the owners morally object:
The Green family has said it has no moral objection to the use of other contraceptives and will continue covering them for its employees.
EMILY’s List sent out an email with the subject line “Who decides your healthcare?” (bold emphasis in the original):
Right now, 11 Republican lawmakers have tacked their names on to a legal brief in support of Hobby Lobby, a major retailer currently suing the Obama Administration. What’s this all about? Hobby Lobby wants to deny its women employees insurance coverage for birth control.
It’s clear that congressional Republicans haven’t stopped their assault on women’s rights — even after a walloping at the ballot box from women voters, where we showed just how much we care about making our own healthcare decisions. Now they’re taking it to the courts and it’s time for us to stand up and fight, or else we could live in a world where our bosses get to make our healthcare decisions.
A few lines later we get to another passage of interest (bold emphasis in the original):
At Hobby Lobby alone, the care of thousands of women in 42 states is at risk. And if the courts side with them, that means millions of women face losing basic health coverage. It’s too dangerous for us to sit by and not make our voices heard loud and clear.
Analyzing the Rhetoric
What’s the Hobby Lobby lawsuit about?
Though Stephanie Schriock of EMILY’s List says Hobby Lobby sued to “deny its women employees insurance coverage for birth control,” the suit specifies a few particular types of birth control, those said to work by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Birth control methods that work by preventing implantation may keep a fertilized ovum from developing into a baby. People who believe a fertilized ovum is a human person may object to such birth control methods on moral grounds. The courts have thus far taken for granted that Hobby Lobby’s owners sincerely hold such beliefs. Hobby Lobby claims a federal government requirement that it provide coverage for morally objectionable birth control methods violates its religious rights.
Schriock makes no mention of the stated legal basis for the suit.
Her statement thus contains a shred of truth. The suit would deny employees insurance coverage for some forms of birth control. But the suit would not affect coverage for most forms of birth control. Schriock also fails to inform her readers on that point.
Schriock’s omissions encourage readers to commit a fallacy of ambiguity, exaggerating the extent of the loss of insurance coverage.
Insurance coverage=healthcare decisions?
Schriock tells her readers a win in court by Hobby Lobby could result in employers making healthcare decisions for women.
Certainly people consider their health insurance coverage in making health care decisions, but the type of insurance coverage does not literally make health care decisions for beneficiaries. Beneficiaries need not use covered services at all, and beneficiaries may pay for medical services not covered by insurance. In the latter case, a patient would pay out-of-pocket, and the cost and effectiveness of services would affect the patient’s medical decisions.
This is a very important point, for no insurance will pay for every medical treatment. If a plan that doesn’t pay for a copper IUD is making a woman’s healthcare decision for her, then so is a plan that does not cover chiropractic treatment or experimental drug therapies. Every health care plan controls her healthcare decisions. And if the patient has no insurance then her ability to pay controls her healthcare decisions. No matter how we slice it, her healthcare decisions are externally controlled under this view of things. We don’t buy it. We think Schriock’s argument here amounts to special pleading—a fallacy.
It’s unlikely most people think of birth control as “basic healthcare coverage.” Plainly Schriock’s context is birth control coverage, though. So what is she talking about?
The health care reform law permitted the federal Department of Health and Human Services to define health insurance benefit levels in a number of ways. In August 2011 the HHS made all forms of FDA-approved birth control part of a package of preventive care benefits automatically exempt from co-pays. With the effective date of that rule, contraceptive coverage turned into “basic health care.” Schriock omits the story behind the term she uses.
Rewritten to rein in the exaggeration, Schriock’s statement might look like this: And if the courts side with them, that means millions of women face losing insurance coverage of some types of birth control. Of course, objections to birth control vary. Roman Catholic businesses may well choose not to cover any birth control under their insurance. Employees lacking insurance coverage of birth control could elect to pay for birth control out-of-pocket regardless of what their employer wants.
“Hobby Lobby wants to deny its women employees insurance coverage for birth control.”
“We could live in a world where our bosses get to make our healthcare decisions.”
If limits on insurance coverage constitute external control of healthcare decisions, then beneficiaries do not ever fully control their own healthcare decisions since all insurance benefits have limits. Schriock’s claim is absurd and amounts to special pleading: This limit on health care coverage controls healthcare decisions (while others do not).
“Millions of women face losing basic health coverage.”
Women would lose “basic” coverage not considered “basic” until HHS declared it so in 2011. Schriock exaggerates the extent of the loss by omissions of context, encouraging a fallacy of ambiguity.
Schriock, Stephanie. “Who Decides Your Healthcare?” 6 Mar. 2013. Email.
“Essential Health Benefits, Actuarial Value, and Accreditation Standards: Ensuring Meaningful, Affordable Coverage.” HealthCare.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Kliff, Sarah. “Five Facts about the Health Law’s Contraceptive Mandate.” Wonkblog. The Washington Post Company, 1 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Green, David. “Column: Christian Companies Can’t Bow to Sinful Mandate.” USATODAY.COM. Gannett Co, Inc., 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
“Intrauterine Device (IUD) Birth Control and Side Effects.” WebMD. WebMD, 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Belluck, Pam. “Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 June 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Lewis, Jeffrey D., and Dennis M. Sullivan. “The Abortifacient Potential of Emergency Contraceptives (Abstract).” Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics 28.3 (2012): 113-20. DigitalCommons@Cedarville. Cedarville University, Fall 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Lewis, Jeffery, and Dennis Sullivan. “The Abortifacient Potential of Emergency Contraceptives.” Ethics and Medicine 28.3 (2012): 113-20.
“Careers : Hobby Lobby.” Careers : Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Payne, Amy. “Morning Bell: Defying the Obama Administration on Religious Liberty.” The Foundry Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation, 9 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.