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BURWELL v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC.: PRIVACY, EQUAL FREEDOM, AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE

Author: EDWARD J. MARTIN, MCHAEL J. MARTIN and MATEO S. PIMENTEL
Published in IJED, Vol. 10 No. 1

In this investigation we argue that the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 2014 decision by the US Supreme Court - in which for profit businesses can deny birth control coverage in company health insurance plans on the basis of religious beliefs of company ownership - should instead be adjudicated within the context of “privacy” based on the legal precedents of Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965 and Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1972. Birth control should be a integral part of health care coverage irrespective of the company ownership’s religious beliefs. Consequently, the Hobby Lobby decision was wrongfully adjudicated under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and should be rescinded. We further argue that, privacy rights also imply that birth control, understood as women’s reproductive rights is directly related to women’s economic well-being as free, self-determining, and autonomous persons capable of deciding their own reproductive choices. This is specifically the case for women, one of the most impoverished groups in the United States and global community, in preventing unwanted pregnancies and incurring greater economic hardship. Accordingly, if individuals have the legally established right to “privacy” to be “let alone,” that is, “freedom for” government noninterference (Griswold and Eisenstadt) then it can also be argued that individuals have a fundamental right to resources, or “freedom from” deprivation and those fundamental assets to maintain a minimal level of dignified human existence and self-determination. In academic literature this is known as “equal freedom.” Personal freedom upholding privacy rights to be “let alone” must necessarily lay claim to resources to be a free and autonomous person if these resources cannot be allocated, so that persons can be let alone and “free form” government dependence in the first place. This would necessarily include reproductive rights and the regulation of one’s own reproductive capacities and the economic support for this right. The point of investigation for understanding how privacy is related to “freedom from” deprivation is also a “freedom for” economic justice and reproductive rights. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. must be rethought in terms of personal privacy and economic support for birth control and reproductive rights. Thus the religious exemption decision in Hobby Lobby is nothing more than a red herring argument and should be dismissed as a rationale for denying birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act, 2010.

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