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East of Eden

Michael Potter, the Eden Foods founder and CEO, is one of the folks suing the Obama administration over its policy covering contraception as basic preventive care. Salon's Irin Carmon asked him why.

"Because I'm a man, number one and it's really none of my business what women do," Potter said. So, then, why bother suing? "Because I don't care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel's or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That's my issue, that's what I object to, and that's the beginning and end of the story." He added, "I'm not trying to get birth control out of Rite Aid or Wal-Mart, but don't tell me I gotta pay for it."

That's a doozy of a quote, so let's unwrap it a bit.

First, plenty of men are capable of supporting women's access to contraception. It's troubling some find this confusing.

Second, comparing birth control to whiskey is kind of odd.

Third, the federal government tells Potter and other business leaders to pay for all sorts of things -- minimum wages, safety equipment, etc. -- they might otherwise not want to pay for. That's not grounds for a lawsuit; it's generally just considered the literal bare minimum of modern corporate responsibility. Indeed, under federal health care law, employees who get their insurance through their employers will get all kinds of benefits without a copay, but notice that Potter isn't suing over eye exams or colonoscopies.

And fourth, under the Obama administration's compromise, Potter and other opponents of contraception don't have to pay for the coverage directly, anyway.

All of which is to say, there must be something more to this. Potter wouldn't bother hiring a bunch of lawyers to sue the administration if he actually believed "it's really none of my business what women do."

So, Carmon pushed further.

Why sue over this if he had no particular issue with contraception, as the suit -- "these procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices," his court filing explained -- clearly alleges he does out of religious conviction? Well, he said, he opposes "using abortion as birth control, definitely."

Of course, this doesn't make sense, either. Contraception isn't abortion, and abortion isn't covered under the health care law. Potter did look into this before filing a federal lawsuit, right?

The CEO added, "I'm not an expert in anything." That's good to know.

He went on to say, "I am qualified to have an opinion about what health insurance I pay for." That's true, though he's doing more than having an opinion -- there's that federal lawsuit -- and under the administration's existing policy, he still doesn't have to pay for birth control.

I floated by him the fact that contraceptive coverage is cheaper to pay for than, say, maternity coverage.

Potter replied, "One's got a little more warmth and fuzziness to it than the other, for crying out loud."

Well, it's good to know this business leader has given this such serious thought.