Hobby Lobby case holds power, not life, sacred

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 Hobby Lobby

A Hobby Lobby store is seen on June 30, 2014 in Plantation, Florida. (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

We can stop pretending the Hobby Lobby case is about the sanctity of life now.

Now that Forbes and Mother Jones and CBS News and dozens of other outlets have reported that Hobby Lobby's employee retirement plan invests millions in companies that manufacture emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices and drugs commonly used in abortions.

"When added up, the nine funds holding the stated investments involve three-quarters of Hobby Lobby's 401(k) assets," reports Rick Ungar at Forbes.com.

And now that The Week's Jonathan Merritt has pointed out the staggering hypocrisy of a company purporting to hold human life sacrosanct, even as it imports oodles of its products from China — "one of the worst offenders of human dignity, unborn infant life and economic justice anywhere in the world," writes Merritt.

"Hobby Lobby reminds us why for-profit businesses should resist calling themselves 'Christian,'" he continues. "The free market is messy and complicated and riddled with hypocrisy. Conducting business in today's complex global economy almost ensures one will engage in behavior that is at least morally suspect from a Biblical standpoint."

But refusing to pay for insurance coverage of certain contraceptives isn't really about the Bible. Nor is it about whether those contraceptives stop a human life from forming during intercourse; vasectomies do that, and the company appears to be happy to offer insurance coverage for those.

What it's really about is power, and the need to keep that power where they want it. The Hobby Lobby executives — and the Supreme Court justices who sided with them — view power as a zero-sum game: If one group gets more, another group gets less.

When it comes to power over your own health, your own body, your own decisions about whether and when to bring another person into the world — this couldn't be further from the truth.

Conservative commentator P.J. O'Rourke is famous for his "Zero Sum Fallacy" bit, in which he argues that wealth and prosperity don't have limited, fixed amounts because we can always create more.

He was talking about it on Bill Maher's show back when I had enough money for premium cable and enough time to watch TV. (Before kids.) He wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal when President Obama won re-election in 2012. He opined about it for American Public Media's Marketplace column during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It goes like this:

"The Zero Sum Fallacy (is) the idea that there is a fixed amount of the good things in life," he wrote for Marketplace. "Anything I get, I'm taking from you. If I have too many slices of pizza, you have to eat the Domino's box."

"The Zero Sum Fallacy is a bad idea — dangerous to economics, politics and world peace," he continued. "It means any time we want good things, we have to fight with each other to get them. We don't. We can make more good things."

I'd like to suggest we apply his logic to our woeful distribution of power.

A woman who can afford a contraceptive that her doctor has prescribed — to save her life or manage her pain or reduce her risk for an unplanned pregnancy — is more powerful than a woman who can't. Granting a woman that power in no way diminishes the power of any other human — man or woman, liberal or conservative, Christian or non.

We don't have to fight each other for power. We can — and should — always create more.

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13

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