June 30, 2014

USAT’s Wolf Shows Financial Ignorance, Relays Non-Scientific Arguments for Hobby Lobby Decision’s Opponents

USA Today reporter Richard Wolf’s afternoon coverage of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision appeared to be completely ignorant of the dire financial consequences which would have been visited on the company had it lost today.

He also allowed unscientific and objectively wrong arguments about conception to be advanced by those who wanted to see Hobby Lobby defeated. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

HobbyLobby2012

Justices rule for Hobby Lobby on contraception mandate

The Supreme Court advanced the cause of religious freedom Monday in the most closely watched case of its term, ruling that companies cannot be forced to offer insurance coverage for certain birth control methods they equate with abortion.

… But the ruling was not as sweeping as it could have been for several reasons. It’s based on a religious freedom law passed by Congress rather than a broad constitutional right to exercise religion. It applies only to closely-held corporations such as the family-owned companies that challenged the law.

And it leaves open the possibility that women working for those companies can get the disputed contraceptives — morning-after pills and IUDs — from another source, such as the government or private insurers.

… “If the owners comply with the … 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,” (Justice) Alito said. “If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”

Under the health care law, most companies with more than 50 employees who do not provide the coverage face fines of $100 per day per employee. That could cost Hobby Lobby $475 million a year for its 13,000 workers. It would be much less expensive to drop health coverage altogether – $2,000 per employee per year, or $26 million.

Wolf almost seems to be saying that $475 million spread over 13,000 workers really isn’t all that burdensome. At the very least he has failed to report how burdensome it is. I say that because anyone with any familiarity with the company’s situation or with even a smidgen of business knowledge would know, and Wolf should have noted, that a nondeductible penalty of this size would — at roughly 15 percent of its estimated $3.3 billion in revenues and likely more than the privately held company’s operating profit — almost certainly put the company out of business.

As to the “only” $26 million in penalties for not having insurance at all, that’s no small number either. Cancelling employees’ health insurance over owners’ conscience-driven beliefs would be hugely disruptive and would run counter to the administration’s claim that it wants employer coverage to stay. Such beliefs are not negotiable. Hobby Lobby and hundreds, if not thousands, of closely held companies, partnerships and proprietorships would have pulled the plug on their health plans if today’s ruling had gone the other way. They would have had no choice.

Here’s Wolf’s science-denying paragraph (numbered tags are mine):

The companies and groups asserting their religious claims say that intrauterine devices (IUDs) and morning-after pills cause abortions by blocking a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. [1] Groups that lobby for reproductive rights contend the drugs and devices prevent fertilization from occurring [2], which can lead to unwanted pregnancies and surgical abortions. [3]

Notes:

[1] — This incorrectly states the facts. Such devices indisputably sometimes cause abortions. The abortions occur if an egg is fertilized and then prevented from implanting itself in the womb by the IUD or pill.

[2] — Even if the morning-after pills (RU-486 and its successor known as “Ella”) conceivably and as best I can tell only occasionally prevent fertilization, what they often prevent is the implantation of a fertilized egg, i.e., an already living human. An IUD prevents implantation; it does not prevent fertilization.

[3] — This last sentence fragment is incoherent. If Wolf was trying to say that NOT using the morning-after pill or IUD “can lead to unwanted pregnancies,” then the woman can buy either of those pregnancy-preventing objectively abortifacient items on her own at a nominal cost and not force their employers’ owners to violate their conscience rights. Finally, getting pregnant doesn’t lead to a surgical abortion. Separately deciding to kill your pre-born baby does.

“Groups that lobby for reproductive rights” can “contend” whatever they want about these devices. But they’re objectively wrong, and nothing — not even Richard Wolf relaying their lies as if they’re the truth — will change that.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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