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Picketers at Warwick Hobby Lobby Protest Supreme Court Birth Control Ruling

Warwick, RI – About 70 picketers attended Saturday’s protest at Warwick’s Hobby Lobby, organized within hours of the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. allowing closely-held corporations to refuse paying for some forms of employees’ contraception on religious grounds.

In Warwick, the protesters, who lined the sidewalk in front of the 945 Bald Hill Road Hobby Lobby location from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m., were joined by politicians and candidates, including Warwick Rep. Frank Ferri (D -Dist. 22), Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) and gubernatorial candidates Angel Taveras and Clay Pell.

The Court decided the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) mandate requiring employers to provide basic healthcare violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 when it conflicts with a closely-held business owners’ religious beliefs.

Specifically, Hobby Lobby’s owners argued their right to refuse to pay for four of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives, which they believe cause abortions, as part of their employee healthcare plans. The birth controls in question were two forms each of the so-called “morning-after” pill and Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs), which, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the journal Contraception, respectively, prevent fertilization, and do not cause abortions.

But the Court’s majority used the plaintiffs’ belief, rather than the science, as the primary guide to their ruling. “The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the  owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one  of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito.

“The Supreme Court re-affirmed what our family has always believed, that America is a country founded on, and sustained, by religious liberty,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby, in a video posted to YouTube and to following the ruling.

“Hobby Lobby’s decision to not cover certain kinds of birth control and their decision to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to protect the imagined religious rights of corporations is an affront to humanity that cannot be tolerated,”  said protest organizer Steve Ahlquist, President of the Humanists of Rhode Island.

“We are truly thankful for the decision that allowed us to continue operating our family business according to our principles,” Green said. The company followed up their public statements with a full-page ad in the Providence Journal July 4.

Under the RFRA’s guidelines, the Obama administration laid out an alternate route for employees to receive coverage of health care options their employers opted out of for religious reasons, stating the insurance providers must provide the coverage, to be compensated by the federal government, but only after the objecting company files a form stating their religious objection.

Though the Court suggested the compromise as a reasonable alternative to enforcing the ACA universally for all employers, the LA Times reports that on Thursday the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction allowing Wheaton College, which has protested the requirement that they sign the form, to not comply with the compromise.

“This ruling is based not on the Constitution, but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute. This statute was adopted by Congress and must be repealed by Congress,” said Debbie Flitman, a local mother and member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, “The FFRF’s amicus brief was the only brief before the Supreme Court that argued that RFRA is unconstitutional. Our important brief points out that RFRA ‘accords religious believers extreme religious liberty rights that yield a political and fiscal windfall in violation of the clearest commands of the Establishment Clause.’ The RFRA is a bad law that must be repealed.”

Carolyn Mark, of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, said, “The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case shows a shocking disregard for the religious liberty of working women who should have the right to make their own heath care decisions in concert with their doctor and their faith and not to have those decisions made for them by their employer. This decision will most certainly embolden those forces in our society that wish to withhold a full range of health care options for women.”

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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