Hobby Lobby and IVF: Inconsistent Thinking

Posted on July 14, 2014


By now we all know that the Supreme Court ruled that “closely held” for-profit employers may decline to pay for contraceptive coverage if it goes against the business owners’ religious beliefs. This, in spite of the ACA’s stance that contraception is an essential part of women’s reproductive health in this day and age. Hobby Lobby, to be fair, does not oppose all birth control, just those types that it considers “abortifacients.” In Hobby Lobby’s estimation, Plan B and IUDs… which work by preventing implantation of a possibly fertilized egg… count as “abortifacients,” because the owners believe that human life begins at fertilization.

So I’m thinking that Hobby Lobby should be up in arms and protesting in the streets over IVF. As we have written previously, IVF as currently practiced involves the willful destruction of those fertilized embryos that are never implanted. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but a solid estimate amounts to some 660,000 embryos intentionally discarded every year in the US (check the math here). It is very common to create multiple embryos and choose to implant only the healthiest ones. Then there are cases like this one, in which IVF is used as a way to prevent the transmission of a congenital disease (in this case, a fatal adult-onset brain disorder) to the next generation of a family. Check out the article: in this particular case, twelve embryos were created, but only two were chosen for implantation. Six were defective and will never be implanted. The remaining four? Who knows? At any rate, this is hailed as “disease prevention,” but in the eyes of anyone who believes that life begins at fertilization, it is bald eugenics. After all, the technique does not prevent disease in any individual; it merely creates a batch of embryos, then destroys the diseased individuals while choosing healthy ones to come to term.

Now, while the ACA (“Obamacare”) does not require that insurance plans cover infertility treatments, there are 15 states with laws requiring some level of coverage for infertility treatments. Of those, at least three – Arkansas, Maryland, and Texas – SPECIFICALLY require coverage for IVF. Hobby Lobby operates stores in all of those states, yet I have not heard any outcry over Hobby Lobby refusing to cover IVF treatments in those states. DO they cover IVF treatments, then? If so, how do they reconcile that coverage with their religious claim that life begins at fertilization of the egg? And how do they reconcile that coverage with their refusal to cover contraceptives that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg?

I haven’t found the answer to this yet, but it’s more than a matter of curiosity. If Hobby Lobby is covering IVF while denying coverage for IUDs and Plan B (not to mention that their own 401(k) plans invest in companies that make abortifacient drugs), then they are inconsistent in the application of their own stated beliefs. In my view, that alone weakens their claim to a religious exemption for including IUDs and Plan B in their health plans.

We live in a country where Church is constitutionally separated from State. We aren’t supposed to be making laws accommodating one religion over another, and I think it’s detrimental to make laws that accommodate any religion over science and medicine.