Hobby Lobby Appealing Requirement to Provide Contraceptives to Employees


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Hobby Lobby Stores sue HHS over contraception provisions in Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: Hobby Lobby

Oklahoma City based retailer, Hobby Lobby, is appealing a judge’s decision denying an injunction that would exempt the company from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employers to provide insurance to employees covering the morning-after pill, the week-after pill, and intrauterine devices.

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

David Green began the company a small picture framing business that he ran out of the garage in his Oklahoma City home in 1970. The business became Hobby Lobby on August 3, 1972, when the first arts and crafts store opened.

Hobby Lobby currently operates 514 retail stores in 41 states and has 13,240 full time employees. Hobby Lobby has a sister corporation, Mardel, Inc. that operates book stores and sells Christian educational supplies in seven states through 35 stores. Mardel employs 372 people.

Both companies are run by a management trust; the trustees consist of David Green and members of his family. According to the Hobby Lobby website, the businesses were founded upon “strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.” None of the companies’ stores open on Sundays.

Both Hobby Lobby and Mardel provide health insurance to their employees through a self-insured plan.

The Affordable Care Act

The ACA, or as it is affectionately known, Obamacare, became law on March 23, 2010. One of its provisions mandates preventive health care services. Included in these preventive services are all forms of contraception that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Some methods of contraception such as the morning-after pill, the week-after pill and intrauterine devices operate to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. According to the Christian beliefs of the Green family, life begins at conception, and preventing the fertilized egg from attaching inside the womb is tantamount to abortion. The family takes the position that requiring them to provide health care to employees that covers aborting fetuses goes against their religious beliefs.

This portion of the ACA comes into effect on January 1, 2013. Should Hobby Lobby and Mardel refuse to cover contraception under their employees’ health care plans, the companies face fines of up to $1.3 million a day. As well, without an exemption, Hobby Lobby and Mardel are open to lawsuits from individual workers.

In September, 2012, the family filed a lawsuit in the United District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma seeking an injunction to prevent their businesses from having to provide these contraceptives to their employees. The motion was argued on November 1, and on November 19, Judge Joe Heaton issued a 28 page ruling denying the request for injunctive relieve. That decision is now under appeal.

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