Religious beliefs trumped science in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling
By Annie Sneed
This week’s Supreme Court ruling that the Affordable Care Act violated the craft store chain Hobby Lobby’s religious freedom by requiring it to provide employees with insurance coverage for certain contraceptives was based on a complete misunderstanding of how these forms of birth control work. The owners of Hobby Lobby believe the contraceptives—Plan B, Ella and intrauterine devices (IUD)—cause abortions, which they object to as Christians. It is scientifically accepted that pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. These contraceptives, however, act before implantation so they cannot be said to terminate pregnancy.
Yet some religious practitioners, including the owners of Hobby Lobby, hold that life begins at conception—when the sperm fertilizes the egg. They believe that these particular contraceptives interfere with the fertilized egg, which they view as destruction of life. Scientific studies indicate this isn’t the case either. Rather, these contraceptives appear to work before fertilization. For instance, Plan B affects ovulation, thereby ensuring that the egg never meets a sperm. This hormonal contraceptive operates similarly to other birth control pills. “We have a very high level of certainty that Plan B only works before ovulation,” says Kelly Cleland, a population researcher at Princeton University.