April 3, 2014 — Despite its objections to a federal requirement to include contraceptive coverage in its employer-sponsored health plan, Hobby Lobby offers its employees a 401(k) retirement plan that includes investments in companies that manufacture birth control pills and devices, as well as medication abortion drugs, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Hananel, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/2).
In a lawsuit now before the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby's owners have argued that offering comprehensive contraceptive coverage to their employees -- as required under federal rules implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) -- would violate their religious beliefs. Specifically, they object to including coverage for intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives, which they claim can act as abortifacients (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).
According to documents from the U.S. Department of Labor and a review of the company's investment portfolios, Hobby Lobby offers its employees a 401(k) plan comprising several mutual funds that invest in drug companies that manufacture IUDs, EC and drugs used in medication abortions.
The funds include investments in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which manufactures the EC product Plan B and the IUD ParaGard. Other investments include Pfizer and Forest Laboratories -- both of which manufacture medication abortion drugs -- and the insurers Aetna and Humana, both of which sell health plans that cover EC and abortions.
According to the AP/Bee, the investments represent a small fraction of the holdings in the mutual funds and the company's overall investments.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said the news of the investments represents the "height of hypocrisy," adding, "Hobby Lobby's CEO wants to deny the company's 13,000 employees access to affordable birth control, while investing in pharmaceutical companies that make it."
According to the AP/Bee, a Hobby Lobby spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/2).
NYT's Greenhouse Analyzes Hobby Lobby Case
In related news, New York Times op-ed contributor and former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse writes that the legal implications of challenges to the contraceptive coverage rules were "never going to be ... narrowly confined," arguing that Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan rightly pressed Hobby Lobby's attorney about the potential ramifications for objections in other areas of health care, like vaccinations and blood transfusions.
She also notes that during last week's oral arguments, some exchanges between Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Justice Anthony Kennedy -- considered the swing vote -- "led some supporters of contraception coverage to shudder: 'Watch out, Kennedy thinks the case is about abortion.'" Greenhouse writes, "I don't think that's a necessary or even accurate reading."
Instead, she speculates that Kennedy and the other justices are wondering how the case could relate to gay rights, which is at the center of a different case before the court that also involves religious objections. She suggests it is possible the justices will "spen[d] their time trying to disentangle the two cases, fighting the gravitational pull that links one case to the other," but concludes, "I hope instead that the court sees the two jointed together as a kind of early warning system of the dangers of, as Justice Kennedy said, allowing religion to 'just trump'" other rights (Greenhouse, New York Times, 4/2).