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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Anthony Man, Sun Sentinel

DAVIE, Fla. — Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, stopped at a Hobby Lobby store in her district on Wednesday — not to pick up some craft supplies for one of her kids’ school projects, but to alert people to the store’s existence and urge people not to shop there.

“I want people to know that this Hobby Lobby is here and they should vote with their purses and their pocketbooks, and women should not shop here. If you didn’t know this Hobby Lobby was here before, know it now and don’t shop here. They don’t deserve women’s business because they are the ones that all across the country have made it harder for women to get access to birth control,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz said the store shouldn’t be patronized because it was the driving force that led to a Supreme Court decision in June that certain family-owned corporations couldn’t be required to provide contraception coverage through their health insurance plans. The contraception mandate was part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The congresswoman and party chairwoman spoke at a news conference adjacent to the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby near the intersection of State Road 84 and University Drive in Davie. The store, which opened in April, is the chain’s first South Florida location.

Wasserman Schultz was joined by a representative of Planned Parenthood of South Florida, a Florida International University medical student, and a woman who requires prescription birth control for medical issues not involving contraception. Supporters stood behind them and at the intersection holding anti-Hobby Lobby signs.

Joseph Ottolenghi, the FIU student and co-president of Medical Students for Choice, said limiting employees’ access to certain forms of prescription birth control would have a perverse effect. The more expensive forms of birth control, which are harder for women to afford if they don’t have it covered by insurance, are the most effective. If women don’t get those types of birth control, he said it would lead to more unintended pregnancies and more abortions.

Wasserman Schultz said it is “particularly important to hold Hobby Lobby accountable, stand in front of their business, make things uncomfortable for them because that is what they have done to their employees. I want to make sure that people understand that there’s a business here that doesn’t support its employees, that wants to be able to get in the personal business of their employees and make health care decisions and replace their own values, replace their employees’ health care decisions, with their values. …

“The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case was not only disappointing, it was dangerous. No boss should have the right to dictate an employee’s health decisions because (they) don’t belong in the bedrooms, doctor’s offices or pharmacies of their employees. A woman and her doctor know what’s best for their body. Not an insurance company. Not a politician. And certainly not a manager at a Hobby Lobby,” she said.

It isn’t the first time Wasserman Schultz has advocated using the power of the purse in a political context. In 2012, when people who support gay rights boycotted the fast food chicken chain Chick-fil-A because of contributions from its owners and foundation to anti-gay causes, she said she issued an edict to her three kids: No more Chick-fil-A.

“Our family votes with our wallets,” she said. “So when we discover a company doesn’t share our family’s values and makes contributions or spends its profits on causes with which we don’t agree, we don’t patronize those businesses anymore. Hobby Lobby is one of the prime examples.”

Public relations representatives for Hobby Lobby couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday evening. A page on its website describes the 5-4 Supreme Court decision as “a victory for Americans who seek to live by faith.”

The company owners argued that the birth control requirement imposed under the Obamacare health law violated their religious convictions by forcing them to provide “potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan.”

Most customers at the store late Wednesday didn’t want to talk or have their names published.

Amanda Wilson of Fort Lauderdale, on her first trip to the store to make a return for a friend, said she agreed with Wasserman Schultz in principle. “We should have birth control covered,” she said. But, she said, she wouldn’t avoid patronizing the store because “I don’t feel like I’d make a difference by not spending money there because I’m just one person.”

Kevin Dougherty of Cooper City is a constituent of Wasserman Schultz’s — but not a fan. “I doubt seriously I would give her recommendations any consideration.”

Photo: Nicholas Eckhart via Flickr

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