Remember the prediction that the Supreme Court’s decision to let Hobby Lobby opt out of Obamacare contraception coverage would open the floodgates for more of the same?
Well, it’s not a flood, but it is a one-man trickle. A Missouri Republican legislator is suing in federal court for a personal opt-out for his family.
State Rep. Paul Wieland is a devout Catholic who’s petitioned for an exemption to the birth control coverage included on the insurance policy he gets as an elected state official. He doesn’t want it to be available to his two adult daughters, ages 19 and 20, and his youngest daughter, 13. (For that matter, the policy covers birth control for Wieland’s wife, too, but that’s not his grounds for suing.)
Otherwise, Wieland’s attorney told a federal appeals court, forcing Wieland to accept birth control coverage would be like forcing Mormon parents to “stock unlocked liquor cabinets” for their children when the parents are away.
Now, this is puzzling for a couple of reasons. The first is that conservatives argue consistently that matters of family morality aren’t for the government to intrude on – requiring sex education in schools comes to mind. But Wieland evidently wants the courts to help him manage his family’s morality by keeping his daughters away from the enticements of birth control.
The other perplexing reason is this: if the Wielands are the parents they surely try to be, haven’t they already taught their daughters that their church regards almost all birth control as a sin? Do they not have enough faith in their parenting, and in their daughters’ character, to think they will follow those precepts? Is prohibiting premarital sex the domain of parents but barring access to birth control the responsibility of the government?
To that point, Wieland’s attorney, Timothy Belz, told the court, “We all have high hopes for our kids, that is true. We all expect and want them to obey us, and they don’t always.”
Appeals court Judge James Loken, widely quoted in news accounts, evidently didn’t see parallels between Hobby Lobby and the Wieland family. “There’s much greater control by a parent than an employer. All the parents have to do is say, ‘We expect you to abide by our religious tenet.’ That’s a non-event.”
Wieland had requested the same exemption last year, before the Hobby Lobby ruling, but a lower court turned him down for lack of legal standing. Now he wants his case reinstated.
Wieland’s attorney acknowledges that Wieland could buy a private insurance policy with no birth control coverage through his business, which is an insurance company. It’s more expensive than his current state-issued policy, but how can you put a price on morality? He has the choice, costlier though it may be, so why not opt for that, rather than file a suit which makes him sound like he wants the government to help him bring up his daughters?
Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes