Anti-abortion company Hobby Lobby invests in contraception makers

By: CBS
By: CBS

Oklahoma City, OK (CBS) - In its battle over contraception coverage, Hobby Lobby is coming out with egg on its face.

The craft store chain is fighting Obamacare's contraception mandate, taking its argument to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments last week and is expected to rule by June.

But Hobby Lobby's right hand apparently doesn't know what its left hand is doing, at least when it comes to the companies that make certain forms of birth control that it equates with abortion. While the company has waged a fight against the Affordable Care Act's coverage of birth control methods it opposes, its own 401k plan had more than $73 million invested in funds with stakes in companies producing intrauterine devices (IUDs) and emergency contraceptive pills, Mother Jones reports.

"This is the height of hypocrisy," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement to The Associated Press. "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."

It's no small share, either: the $73 million represents three-quarters of the retirement plan's total assets, Mother Jones notes.

So which companies are being supported by Hobby Lobby's 401k investments? They include Pfizer (PFE), which makes the drugs Cytotec and Prostin E2, which are used to induce abortions, and Bayer, which makes the Mirena and Skyla IUDs.

The issue highlights a problem that has created headaches for other businesses: what happens when an institution's investment portfolio directs funds to businesses antithetical to its beliefs, or those of one of its constituents? In the case of Hobby Lobby, its owners, the Green family, have "deeply held religious convictions ... that life begins at conception."

But, of course, while Obamacare is a fairly big target to hit, researching each investment held by the mutual funds in a corporate 401k is slightly tougher to track, although not impossible.

Other institutions have raised eyebrows -- and sparked protests -- for their investments in certain businesses, especially if they appear to show hypocrisy. The classic example of this was the divestment campaigns sparked by protests of apartheid South Africa. The campaigns gained large support in the 1980s, when retirement funds, colleges and other institutions were pressured by students and consumers to sell stakes in businesses with ties to the oppressive regime.

To be sure, Hobby Lobby's pharmaceutical investments, which were disclosed in a December filing made to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, are just a small percentage of each fund's overall investment, The AP notes.

Hobby Lobby, based in Oklahoma City, Okla., didn't immediately return a request for comment. The company is notable for treating its employees well in terms of pay and benefits. Last year it raised its minimum wage for full-time employees to $13 per hour and to $9 for part-time workers -- roughly 80 percent more than the average minimum wage in the area. The company roots its decision partly in Christian belief -- the company's 'statement of purpose' pledges to "Honor the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principle."

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