Truvada for PrEP is an antiretroviral drug used to prevent HIV infection (thanks to Tony Webster)
In the mail-dobbs In a climate of right-wing backlash against what established human rights protections should be, many people have been concerned about overturning Supreme Court precedents protecting marriage equality, same-sex relationships and contraception. But we also need to worry about new poisonous weeds emerging from the Federalist Societydunghill and suffocating new signs of progress in the legal cradle.
For example, earlier this month, some of the worst people in Texas prevailed in federal court in Ft. Value against the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as judge Reed O’Connor ruled in Braidwood Management v. Becerra that the plaintiffs could refuse to purchase health insurance that covers: pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicines used to prevent infection with HIV. That means HHS can’t demand that all plans sold in the US cover PrEP, as it has been since 2020, on the recommendation of its medical experts. That rule has now been placed under what could become a permanent ban.
Why would the plaintiffs want to do this? Because PrEP naturally encourages young men to sodomy! (Maybe women too? The plaintiffs didn’t really say; they were more concerned that the girls would be driven to sex by HPV vaccination, which is a long-standing source of conservative moral panic that’s also somehow wrapped up in this case.) Apparently it’s too high a price to let people avoid death from terrible plagues to get the anti-sex and especially anti -LGBTQ morality maintain code. So it is a violation of the sincere religious beliefs of these conservative claimants.
At first this sounds like the hobby lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases that have violated the guarantee of contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But in those cases, brought, as it is wickerwoodto obtain exemptions under the federal Law on the Restoration of Religious Freedom, there is no doubt that contraception itself contradicts the genuine religious beliefs of many people; for good or for bad. The Obama White House knew with the ACA mandate that it chose to provoke conflict; no one was shocked that a monastery wouldn’t just join in, even if that meant literally just checking a box. It wasn’t clear until it happened how much SCOTUS would sympathize and align with those plaintiffs, but it wasn’t a pretext.
This one plaintiffs – several individuals and two companies, including: Management of Braidwooda company owned by the disgusting Houston sociopath and homophobe Steven Hotze for his various christian crusades and side activities – are more concerned about messages and vibes. They are not asked to sin; the PrEP (and HPV) drugs come with the package and they can avoid them if they don’t want to get cooties. Hotze has already said publicly that he will not hire gay men, which this judge thinks is fine, so it is not clear what damages they can claim here.
What’s really under fire is HHS’s authority to cover preventive care treatments that have been proven to save lives, including treatments that protect against diseases that one can get through sex. But that’s not a policy battle that will be won with the Biden White House, so instead we get religious objections to… the reality as it exists around them? That seems like the top of a really slippery slope, doesn’t it?
Defendants have argued that since Hotze et al. are making empirical claims — more young men will have sinful boy sex if they have access to PrEP — they would have to prove them to refute the evidence on the other side that led to the rule’s enactment. But O’Connor, who had already tried to void the ACA in its entirety from his bench and then be poured back into SCOTUS, broadly agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that it was unnecessary and inappropriate for them to ask them to show their work. Because their beliefs are “held sincere,” it doesn’t matter if they’re bullshit, and now employers and other busybodies can start popping religious bubbles about anything they’d rather not see changed. An appeal is certain, but no timeline has been set yet.