I have a problem with the fact that Hobby Lobby was able to get away with this because pro-life advocates are either a) misinformed about hormone therapy or b) they knowingly lie about it.
So I’m writing about how hormone therapy functions in the bodies of people who have vaginas, uteri, and ovaries. In order to know how hormone therapy works, we have to understand how the ‘female’ reproductive system works.
Menstruation is a cycle, which begins when the ovaries do what they do and ovulate. This happens through the development of an ovarian cyst, which creates an oocyte that will eventually mature and become an ovum. This part of the cycle is the follicular phase. During the follicular phase, the uterine lining (the endometrium) is not conducive to implantation.
Once the ovum has matured, the ovary releases it to travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. This begins the luteal phase, and the endometirum begins forming secretions and blood vessels in anticipation of implantation. Once the ovum has been released, it can be fertilized by sperm, and this is when it becomes a zygote; the fertlized ovum begins going through stages until it eventually forms a conceptus that attaches to the uterine lining, which at this point must transform the base endometrium into the decidua and placenta. This is when pregnancy officially begins. Many pregnancies fail during the first few weeks– this failure is known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, and most women do not even know they were ever pregnant. If the ovum is not fertilized or the zygote fails to implant, the uterus begins to shed the luteal phase lining. In humans, this is menstruation (some mammals absorb the lining instead of excreting it through the vaginal canal).
Hormone therapy– which has many uses– can be used as an effective form of birth control because it prevents ovulation. It also has the secondary effect of thickening mucus, making it more difficult for the sperm to travel beyond the cervix, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes. On top of that, it changes the outer portion of the ovum, making it slightly more resistant to penetration by the sperm.
Every single step of hormonal birth control prevents ovulation, which is why it is an effective treatment for some people who suffer with PCOS, like me. In the event that ovulation has occurred (which rarely happens, otherwise it would be a useless treatment), the secondary effects prevent fertilization.
If the ovary releases a mature ovum, it has also released a hormonal trigger for the endometrium to begin forming the luteal phase secretions. Without a mature ovum, nothing happens to the uterine lining, which is why hormone therapy is said to “thin” the uterine lining, although that description is misleading and deceptive. Hormonal birth control– even emergency contraception— cannot affect implantation for this reason.
This information is not controversial. It is well established, and can be found in any medical textbook concerning reproductive biology.
Hobby Lobby argued that four of the HHS-mandated contraceptives violated their religious beliefs (which is hypocritical and deceptive in the extreme, since they fund the manufactures of these contraceptives and their health plan covered all 20 FDA-approved contraceptives up until two years ago); they argued this based on outdated information concerning how emergency contraception and other forms of hormonal therapy operate that manufactures were required to place in their inserts.
Considering that the hormonal contraception Hobby Lobby opposed– Plan B, ella, and Mirena– functions exactly the same way as all other hormone contraceptive options, their opposition to these in particular is largely ridiculous. The only possible exception is the copper intrauterine device. The copper it releases acts as a spermicide and inhibits sperm mobility. I could find no medical study concerning copper IUDs and its ability to affect implantation– just a lot of speculation– but it is within the realm of how the device works. If you believe that a blastocyst is fully human (a position I believe involves a lot of cognitive dissonance and a lack of intellectual honesty and rigor), then the copper IUD might not be a good option for you.
That doesn’t mean any employer has the right to dictate what their employees use their healthcare for. Healthcare, typically classed as a “benefit,” is part of the financial contract between corporations and employees; laborers agree to sell their labor in exchange for taxed financial compensation as well as non-taxed “benefits” such as healthcare. The reason why healthcare is a separate area of compensation is that the United States government incentivizes employers to provide mass-negotiated sponsored healthcare to their workers without that part of the financial compensation being taxed. Healthcare benefits appear as a subtraction on the employee’s paycheck: it is a service I am contractually guaranteed (part of the reason why I agreed to labor for a particular corporation was to receive it) as well as a service I pay for. Employers have no business telling their laborers how they spend their own money. There is no difference from me handing my insurance card or my credit card to my pharmacist.
The lack of information concerning the cisgender female body is the single most important reason why Hobby Lobby was able to argue for their position. The Supreme Court majority decision specified that it wasn’t the medical legitimacy of the belief, but merely having the belief that made the HHS mandate a “burden” on Hobby Lobby and the hundreds of other companies that are affected by this decision; however, Hobby Lobby is capable of having this “sincerely held religious belief” (coughbullshitcough) because people do not understand how hormonal therapy works. At least part of the reason why this can be considered a “sincerely held religious belief” at all is that so many people are so wrongly informed. Without this traction, Hobby Lobby could never have made an argument in the first place.
I find that particularly laughable, especially since there is more research that says Advil can prevent implantation and cause abortion than hormonal therapy options.