By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer
EVERETT — Jim Mischel Jr. isn’t trying to stop anyone from getting an abortion or taking the day-after pill. He and his family just don’t want to pay for it.
Doing so would be a “grave sin.”
That is what the family, which owns a manufacturing company in Everett, said in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of companies opposing the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate.
The court ruled 5-4 that “closely held” corporations — meaning they are for profit and have a handful of owners — may cite religious objections to providing all forms of birth control. Individuals had formerly been the only ones able to make such claims.
Jim Mischel can’t compartmentalize his faith. It infuses every aspect of his life, the 42-year-old said.
His faith inspired him to start Electric Mirror in 1998 and to stick with it through several lean years, living with his parents and barely scraping by.
His parents, brother and sister all helped, and they are part-owners. And Mischel’s younger brother, Aaron, was adopted from a 14-year-old girl who had been raped and had wanted an abortion, Jim Mischel said.
“No one person can be successful in business. I don’t believe in the self-made man,” Mischel said.
Electric Mirror has taken the age-old mirror and made it high-tech and energy-efficient. The company developed backlit mirrors for high-end hotels. It created Bluetooth mirrors that — using the glass as an amplifier — play music from a synced smartphone. The company expects sales to push past $50 million this year.
About 10 years ago, the company started offering health insurance for employees. It pays good wages and offers health coverage better than those required by the Affordable Care Act. But it has never covered voluntary abortions and a handful of contraceptive measures, such as Plan B.
“If people want Plan B, I’m not stopping them. I just don’t want to pay for it,” he said, sitting in his cramped office.
Despite being Electric Mirror’s CEO, he doesn’t have the corner office and he isn’t even the highest paid employee “by far,” he said.
Instead, he has a small, nondescript office, crammed with filing cabinets, books, binders, Bibles and an electric frying pan filled with beans, meat and vegetables — lunch.
“I’m paleo,” Mischel said, referring to the popular paleo-diet.
Before the Affordable Care Act, the Mischels offered employees good benefits with a clean conscience.
“We went from being free to the government mandating something against our belief system,” he said. “I’m not prohibiting another company from providing what it wants to. But because of our story and our beliefs, we don’t want to support” abortion and certain contraceptives with company resources.
In 2012, the company opted to self-insure to delay having to comply with a state law requiring it to cover voluntary abortions. Electric Mirror pays more than $1 million a year for its employees’ health insurance, he said.
The court’s decision protected his religious freedom, he said. “This is not a free for all. This isn’t an excuse to disregard any federal law.”
In writing the majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito sought to limit its impact, saying that it “concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.”
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called it a decision of “startling breadth.”
“It opens up a Pandora’s box,” said James Cox, a professor and corporate law expert at Duke University’s law school. “We have no idea where it’s going to go.”
The Supreme Court reinforced the ruling by upholding lower court rulings on Tuesday in favor of businesses objecting to covering all methods of government-approved contraception.
Cox sees the ruling in line with the court’s conservative majority’s expansive view of corporate rights.
“Once again, the court is not seeing any distinction between a corporation and an individual,” he said. “It’s going to take years and years and loads of money to figure out the significance of this decision.”
Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dcatchpole.