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That Word “Science,” I Do Not Think…


Sean Davis’s unfortunately titled essay at the Daily Domenech represents the usual combination of strawmen and failures to understand basic points, such as the fact that employer-provided health insurance is something you earn and it’s required to cover things for obvious reasons. But he also tries to defend the claim that the Hobby Lobby litigation was actually about abortion:

The truth of the matter is that the case was about abortion, specifically four types of contraception that can result in the destruction of a fertilized egg. Hobby Lobby paid for 16 different types of non-abortive contraceptive coverage for its employees. The anti-science Left, however, argues that a fertilized egg doesn’t count as human life, and therefore there’s nothing wrong with killing one. After all, nothing says “pro-Science” like comparing a human embryo to a fingernail.

On the idea that most of these forms of contraception can “result in the destruction of a fertilized egg,” sadly, no:

The baseline question here is whether potentially and intentionally preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg constitutes abortion. That’s not the medical definition of abortion, which is ending a pregnancy. But let’s say your sincerely held belief is that interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg is tantamount to abortion, as it is for the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood owners. There is very little evidence showing that the objected-to methods – two forms of intrauterine devices and two forms of emergency contraception – even work that way, with the exception of the copper IUD.

There are two kinds of emergency contraception on the market: an over-the-counter one generally known as Plan B and a prescription-only one known as Ella. According to the amicus brief filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and several other medical associations, “there is no scientific evidence that emergency contraceptives available in the United States and approved by the FDA affect an existing pregnancy.” Instead, they prevent ovulation, so there is no egg to fertilize. That includes the longer-acting Ella: “There is no evidence that [Ella] affects implantation.”

One form of the IUD, known on the market at the Mirena, includes hormones that prevent ovulation. The other, preferred by women who experience side effects from artificial hormones, doesn’t. “When used as emergency contraception” – i.e., after unprotected sexual activity – “the [non-hormonal IUD] could also act to prevent implantation,” according to the amicus.

If you’re keeping count, that’s one out of four that maybe does what the plaintiffs say it does, in the rare instances it’s inserted after unprotected sex – and that’s still not the medical definition of abortion.

But let’s assume that Davis actually knew what he was talking about, and that some forms of birth control that destroys a fertilized egg is killing a human life. If he actually believes this, then the exemption won by Hobby Lobby from its friends at the Supreme Court is almost comically inadequate. “You can murder — but do it on your own dime!” Davis’s boss (correctly) believes that birth control, including birth control the scientifically illiterate believe to cause abortions, should be available over-the-counter. Does Davis think that Dommenech is a supporter of legalized murder? If he believes his own rhetoric, he must.

But of course he doesn’t. There’s not much point investing significant time in rebutting this kind of “pro-life” argument, since it’s plain that almost none of the people making the arguments believe them either.

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