Tech + Health

07.09.14

The Hobby Lobby Backlash Hits Whole Foods

A movement is underway to tell the grocer to drop Eden Foods, which seeks to quit covering all birth control and preventative services for its employees.

Whole Foods isn’t dropping contraception coverage for employees but nevertheless, it’s facing a Hobby Lobby backlash.

By Wednesday afternoon, more than 7,000 people signed an online petition urging Whole Foods to stop carrying products from Eden Foods, one of the 82 companies trying to opt out of covering contraception in health insurance following the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The letter asks Whole Foods, which carries more than 2,000 Eden Foods products, to stand up against companies like Eden who are fighting to deny their employees basic health care.

“While individual-level boycotting of Eden Foods may not have much of an impact, telling Whole Foods to stop carrying Eden Foods’ products in their stores around the nation should have a much bigger effect,” the letter reads. “Let’s seek out the best messenger to send this message to Eden Foods—and in this case, Whole Foods seems like the perfect fit.”

The Catholic owners of the 42-year-old company filed a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act in November 2013, which was initially rejected by a district court. An appeal by the owner’s shortly after was rejected—but the three-person panel of judges granted a motion to stay the case until the Supreme Court made a decision regarding Hobby Lobby.

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies are required to cover 20 different preventive methods and services.

The high court’s ruling last week paved the way for places like Eden Foods to refuse paying for birth control services. But unlike Hobby Lobby, who rejected just four types of contraception, Eden Foods is rejecting all of them. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies are required to cover 20 different preventive methods and services, including things like pregnancy counseling and sterilization. If Eden Foods wins their case, they can refuse to pay for all 20.

“Even though the companies before the Court objected to only some forms of contraceptives, the majority opinion’s analysis could be read to apply to all contraceptives,” says Gretchen Borchelt, Senior Counsel for the National Women’s Law Center.

In a question and answer session shortly after the Hobby Lobby decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg confirmed the possibility of companies winning the right to reject all 20. “[T]he Court’s reasoning appears to permit commercial enterprises like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga to exclude from their group health plans all forms of contraceptives.”

Whole Foods responded to the backlash in an email to The Daily Beast:

“We really do appreciate everyone who has reached out to us to share their feelings about Eden Foods. When reviewing products for our shelves, our primary consideration is whether the product’s ingredients meet our Quality Standards. We recognize and respect that customers may have their own personal criteria for buying or not buying a product, and it’s every shoppers’ right to vote with their dollars on that basis. We hope that if people have feedback for Eden Foods, they share it with them directly.”

Editor's Note: An earlier version wrongly attributed Whole Foods' statement to Eden Foods.