This Bloomberg article by Margaret Carlson is disingenuous in a rather simple way: it discusses the Hobby Lobby case without once mentioning that the forms of contraception the plaintiffs are objecting to being forced to help provide funds for could at least arguably be called abortificants, and that this is in fact the basis of their argument. They have no problem with other forms of contraception coverage required by the Obamacare law.

You can take either side of the Hobby Lobby case and still write a piece that states the facts correctly without omitting one of the most important ones. In her article, Carlson refers to “contraception” and “some contraception,” and the casual reader would be led to believe that Hobby Lobby is objecting to contraception itself.

But two of the types of contraception Hobby Lobby objects to are the morning-after pill (“Plan B”) and the IUD. The left would argue that the preponderance of evidence at this point is that neither are actually abortificants, and there is certainly evidence to that effect. But the truth is that we really don’t yet know their mechanism in all cases, and that Hobby Lobby’s contention that they are abortificants is not the least bit frivolous:

The exact mechanism by which Plan B prevents pregnancies has been in question for decades and is not likely to be cleared up soon, says Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“How you ask the question determines what kind of answer you get,” she said. “What you don’t have is a lot of funding for research that says, ‘Does this drug affect the embryo?’ “

There is a similar case that can be made to consider the IUD a form of abortificant—at least in some unknown number of instances—if a person believes that personhood begins the moment an egg and sperm unite [emphasis mine]:

IUDs primarily work by preventing fertilization. The progestogen released from the hormonal IUDs prevents ovulation from occurring so an egg is never released. The hormone also thickens the cervical mucus so that sperm cannot reach the fallopian tubes. The copper IUDs contain no hormones, but the copper ions in the cervical mucus are toxic to sperm. They also cause the uterus and fallopian tubes to produce a fluid that contains white blood cells, copper ions, enzymes, and prostaglandins, a combination that is also toxic to sperm. The very high effectiveness of copper-releasing IUDs as emergency contraceptives implies they may also act by preventing implantation of the blastocyst.

It’s that “blastocyst” (i.e. newly fertilized egg), and its possible failure to implant in some cases as a result of an IUD, that is the issue (see also this). That’s the basis of Hobby Lobby’s objection, and to call it a refusal to provide contraception is an attempt to portray Hobby Lobby as more extreme than they are, and the question as more simple than it actually is.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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