ENID — A new poll shows a new mandate in the Affordable Care Act, or the so-called “Obamacare,” is not popular in the state. SoonerPoll.com’s survey of 305 likely voting Oklahomans found 57% opposed the new mandate and 33% supported it, with 10% undecided.
The new mandate includes free access to the morning-after and week-after pill, known as Plan B and Ella. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the drugs can stop a fertilized egg from implanting into the wall of a woman’s uterus, thereby preventing a potential pregnancy.
In September, Hobby Lobby Stores sued the federal government, declaring that the mandate violates their rights to live and do business according to the evangelical Christian beliefs of its founder, David Green, and his family. The lawsuit states the Green family's religious beliefs "forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices."
On Thursday, the federal government responded, urging a federal judge to deny the company's request to block enforcement of the new mandate. Failure to comply with the new mandate, could lead to fines of up to $1.3 million a day, according to Hobby Lobby.
"In September, locally-owned Hobby Lobby Stores sued the Federal Government over a new mandate in the Affordable Care Act, or otherwise known as Obamacare, that includes free access to the morning-after and week-after pill, known as Plan B and Ella. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the drugs can stop a fertilized egg from implanting into the wall of a woman’s uterus, thereby preventing a potential pregnancy.
Hobby Lobby’s stance on the pills falls in line with its evangelical Christian beliefs of its founder and family, declaring that the mandate violates their rights to live and do business according to their religious beliefs.
Do you SUPPORT or OPPOSE this new mandate in the Affordable Care Act that includes free access to the morning-after and week-after pill?"
Government attorneys claim that the company cannot claim to exercise religion in order to avoid laws designed to regulate commercial activity.
"Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion," the government said. It says a corporation and its owners are separate entities and Hobby Lobby's owners, the Green family, cannot eliminate the legal separation to impose their religious beliefs on the company and its employees.
Hobby Lobby is free to discourage the use of contraceptives, the government said, but an employee's health care choices remain his or her own.
In the poll results, opposition was strong among Republicans with 73% opposing the mandate, but Democrats in the poll were nearly split with a plurality, 47%, supporting it and 42% opposing it. Independents opposed the mandate 52%, and 32% supported of it.
Perhaps the largest divide was among self-identified liberals, moderates and conservatives. Among those who identify themselves as "very liberal", 79% supported the new mandate, while those identifying themselves as "very conservative" opposed it by 75%. Another 75% of those who are "somewhat conservative" opposed the mandate, with an equal percentage of those who are "somewhat liberal" said they supported it. Moderates slightly favored opposition but not by much, 45% to 43%.
A similar pattern of support and opposition develops with regard to the frequency of religious service attendance. As one might expect, the more respondents in the poll attended services, the more opposition grew. Those who attended services once a month or occasionally throughout the year supported the mandate 60% and 54%, respectively.
"The correlation of political ideology and religious service attendance to the amount of opposition shows the state is deeply divided over this issue and similar social issues our country faces today," said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com. "But, keep in mind, a majority opposes this new mandate because a majority of the state is conservative and frequently attend religious services."
Results among male and female respondents were comparable, with 56% and 57% opposing the mandate, respectively.
Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who is representing Hobby Lobby in the lawsuit said the government claiming businesspersons having no constitutional right to freedom of religion is "legally very weak."
"The government repeats its old line: you give up your religious freedom when you go into business. That's a startling and disturbing claim for our government to make," said Windham.
Interestingly, opposition to the mandate remained fairly consistent among all age groups in the poll results, including younger voters. Although only a slim plurality of 25-34 year-old respondents opposed the new mandate (48% to 47%), a majority of all other age groups opposed it.
Also, opposition was strongest in the rural parts of the state and the Oklahoma City metro area, at 62% and 60%, respectively. The Tulsa metro area slightly supported the mandate, 46% to 44%.
A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Thursday of this week, Nov. 1, before U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton.