DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers joined with roughly 20 attorneys general across the nation and signed onto a brief opposing the birth-control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the mandate trammels the constitutional religious freedom rights.
Suthers is siding with the craft store corporation Hobby Lobby in its suit against the Obama administration’s Kathleen Sebelius. The company says the birth control mandate in “obamacare” — specifically the coverage of the emergency contraception “morning after pill” — violates the company’s Evangelical Christian beliefs, which hold that human life begins when a human egg is fertilized. On the level of legal theory, it perhaps matters little that the most popular emergency contraception in the United States, a product called Plan B, is not an abortifacient. It works by preventing fertilization.
That would seem to be Suthers’ take.
“Colorado Attorney General John Suthers joined the Hobby Lobby brief because he supports the principle that the federal government should not be able to dictate that a privately-held business provide insurance coverage that is contrary to the religious beliefs of the businesses’ owners,” wrote spokesperson Carolyn Tyler in an email to the Independent.
The brief Suthers signed, argues in part:
[blockquote]Americans may form a corporation for profit and at the same time adhere to religious principles in their business operation. This is true for… a Jewish-owned deli that does not sell non-kosher foods or a Muslim-owned financial brokerage that will not lend money for interest. The idea is as American as apple pie.[/blockquote]
Women’s reproductive rights advocates disagree. They say it’s the right to make your own decisions about your health care that is as American as apple pie. They say the Hobby Lobby case risks setting dangerous precedent when it comes to treating corporations as people.
“It’s about the individual’s right, not about the company’s,” said Karen Middleton of NARAL Pro-Choice in Colorado.
“We think this means Attorney Suthers believes bosses should be able to make a decision about whether a woman should have access to contraceptive services rather than the woman herself,” agreed Cathy Alderman of Planned Parenthood.
This is not the first time Suthers has waded into the national debate around Obamacare. In 2010, he joined other attorneys general in arguing the health care law was unconstitutional. That case went to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled the law constitutional.
“From a policy perspective we see it as another attempt by our Attorney General to undermine the Affordable Care Act, which is probably one of the best social policies for women and families ever,” said Alderman.
The Hobby Lobby case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 25.
[Photo by American Life League]
correction: The original draft of this story stated that the Supreme Court ruled against the Suthers position. In fact, the court agreed with Suthers’s specific arguments, but found the health law constitutional on other grounds.