By Sam Hananel
WASHINGTON: The company leading the legal challenge against birth control coverage under the new health care law offers its workers a retirement plan that includes investments in companies making contraceptive and abortion drugs.
Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. has a 401(k) plan featuring several mutual funds investing in pharmaceutical firms that produce intrauterine birth control devices, emergency contraceptive pills and drugs used in abortion procedures, according to Labor Department documents and a review of fund portfolios.
Hobby Lobby and the Green family that owns it say their religious beliefs prohibit them from offering health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that can work after conception. The retailer and others have sued the Obama administration, challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide coverage for all approved forms of birth control, including the morning-after pill and similar drugs that may work after an egg has been fertilized.
The Supreme Court heard arguments last week and is expected to issue a ruling by June.
“This is the height of hypocrisy,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “Hobby Lobby’s CEO wants to deny the company’s 13,000 employees access to affordable birth control, while investing in pharmaceutical companies that make it.”
Hobby Lobby spokeswoman Emily Hardman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The magazine Mother Jones first reported Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan investment holdings.
Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) plan includes funds that invest in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, maker of Plan B, known as the morning-after pill, and ParaGard, an intrauterine device. Hobby Lobby objects to offering employee coverage for both forms of birth control.
Other holdings include Pfizer, maker of the drugs Cytotec and Prostin E2 used to induce abortions, and Forest Laboratories, maker of Cervidil, which is also used to induce abortions. Some of the funds also invest in health insurance companies Aetna and Humana, which offer policies covering emergency contraception and surgical abortions.
The pharmaceutical companies are among dozens of holdings by each mutual fund, and represent just a fraction of the overall investment.
The investments were disclosed in December in an annual filing that Hobby Lobby made to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Labor Department agency that oversees employer-sponsored retirement plans. Hobby Lobby offered to match employee contributions to the 401(k) plan, an amount totaling $3.8 million in 2012.
The Green family says it believes life begins at conception, and lawyers for the Greens say following the provisions of the new federal health care law would either violate their religious beliefs or force them to pay millions of dollars in fines. The company’s insurance plans do offer 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care law.
The Obama administration says a victory for Hobby Lobby and other companies challenging the law would prevent their female employees from making decisions about birth control based on what’s best for their health, not whether they can afford it.