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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Did Hobby Lobby once provide the birth control coverage it sued the Obama administration over?

Hobby Lobby’s Supreme Court victory over the federal government’s contraception rule on Monday set off a fast-breaking wave of punditry on national TV. CNN brought in liberal pundit and contributor Sally Kohn, who panned the court’s 5-4 decision as disastrous and Hobby Lobby’s intentions as disingenuous.

“Hobby Lobby provided this coverage before they decided to drop it to file suit, which was politically motivated,” she said. ...

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Hobby Lobby’s Supreme Court victory over the federal government’s contraception rule on Monday set off a fast-breaking wave of punditry on national TV. CNN brought in liberal pundit and contributor Sally Kohn, who panned the court’s 5-4 decision as disastrous and Hobby Lobby’s intentions as disingenuous.

“Hobby Lobby provided this coverage before they decided to drop it to file suit, which was politically motivated,” she said.

We can’t determine if politics motivated the company, but we did wonder whether Hobby Lobby covered the types of birth control at issue in its lawsuit but dropped the coverage before filing its complaint.

The short answer: Yes.

The Green family, which founded Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City in 1972, said as much in its original complaint.

The Greens re-examined the company’s health insurance policy back in 2012, shortly before filing the lawsuit. A Wall Street Journal story says they looked into their plan after being approached by an attorney from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty about possible legal action over the federal government’s contraceptives requirement.

That was when, according to the company’s complaint, they were surprised to learn that their prescription drug policy included two drugs, Plan B and Ella, which are emergency contraceptive pills that reduce the chance of pregnancy in the days after unprotected sex. The government does not consider morning-after pills as abortifacients because they are used to prevent eggs from being fertilized (not to induce abortions once a woman is pregnant). This is not, however, what the Green family believes, which is that life begins at conception and these drugs impede the survival of fertilized eggs.

At any rate, Hobby Lobby stopped covering those drugs in its plan and took the health care contraceptive mandate to court, represented by the Becket Fund.

The only caveat here is that Hobby Lobby said it didn’t know it was covering the drugs.

“Coverage of these drugs was not included knowingly or deliberately by the Green family. Such coverage is out of step with the rest of the Hobby Lobby’s policies, which explicitly exclude abortion-causing contraceptive devices and pregnancy-terminating drugs,” the company stated in its court filing.

Of note, company leaders do not have religious problems with other forms of birth control, such as the pill, condoms, diaphragms and sterilization, according to the family’s legal representation, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Our ruling

On CNN, Kohn said, “Hobby Lobby provided this coverage before they decided to drop it to file suit.”

The Christian-owned company did previously offer insurance plans that included coverage of a few contraceptives at issue in the case, namely morning-after pills, but reports suggest that owners weren’t aware they offered that coverage.

When the company found out – in the wake of the contraceptive requirements that came out after the health care law – the company stopped offering the drugs and took the contraceptive mandate to court.

Kohn’s statement is accurate but leaves out the fact that Hobby Lobby says it unwittingly offered this kind of birth control coverage. We rate the claim Mostly True.