This makes the second serious assault on the separation of church and state in just the past few months. In Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC late last year, the administration sought unprecedented limits on the autonomy of churches and religious institutions in employment matters – and were overruled by a unanimous SCOTUS.
The abortion/contraception mandate is also going to break down a wall of separation between employees and their HR departments, since before long everyone will get access to them only through their employers.
Maybe the adminstration has made a political calculation that this fight will help them, or maybe they’re just hostile to faith. Otherwise… why?! As Ed Morrissey writes in Mandate a cure in search of a disease:
And why is this mandate necessary in the first place? Is there some great crisis of access to contraception and abortifacients among employed people that only employers can solve? In my column for The Week, I look at the CDC’s in-depth survey of contraception use and find out that the question of access never even comes up as a barrier: “Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age: 99 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method in their lifetime.” Of all the reasons for non-use of contraception in cases of unwanted pregnancy, lack of access doesn’t even make the CDC’s list; almost half of women assumed they couldn’t get pregnant (44 percent), didn’t mind getting pregnant (23 percent), didn’t plan to have sex (14 percent), or worried about the side effects of birth control (16 percent). In fact, the word access appears only once in this study of contraceptive use, and only in the context of health insurance, not contraception.
I believe the most likely answer was provided this past Sunday on This Week, when George Will said of the HHS mandate:
This is what liberalism looks like. This is what the progressive state does. It tries to break all the institutions of civil society, all the institutions that mediate between the individual and the state. They have to break them to the saddle of the state.
To my so-called liberal friends who are inclined to yawn or shrug this off, I have two questions: (1) Why does it seem as though the only freedom you cherish is sexual freedom? (Well, OK – also litigious freedom) and (2) Are you certain you wish to grant this power to government? As Jonah Goldberg writes in Free Health Care? That’s Rich:
A government empowered to steamroll the people with the rosaries has the same power to trample the citizens with the ovaries. If you’re afraid of Rick Santorum, you should be afraid of Obamacare.
Here’s more from the same article, followed by some other items worth drawing your attention to:
This is about freedom, full stop. When we empower bureaucrats and politicians to make such huge personal decisions for us, it becomes impossible to avoid trampling on liberty. The Roman Catholic Church was simply the first in Leviathan’s path.
…The freedom argument is old hat now. Obamacare supporters shrug off horror stories from Canada and Britain about concerns such as waiting periods and denied services — and hypothetical scenarios of “death panels.”
Well, here’s something to ponder: If Rick Santorum’s warning doesn’t scare you, maybe Rick Santorum should. Personally, I think his detractors are determined to turn him into a right-wing caricature (a cause he has aided more than once). He’s been prodded about gay marriage, contraception, radical feminists, and his religious faith in the hopes that he will say something embarrassingly juicy for the MSNBC crowd.
But let’s imagine the caricature is fair and he really is the boogeyman Rachel Maddow and Co. say he is. Worse, all his talk about “freedom” is just code for the right-wing version of progressive social engineering, i.e., he wants to turn women into breeders á la The Handmaid’s Tale.
Is that who you want in charge of your health care? If not him, what about some other conservative president down the road?
from Kulturkampf as Public Health by Rich Lowry:
Of all the causes of the explosion in illegitimate births, limited access to contraception can’t be high on the list. At the same time that we have seen a profusion of contraceptives that are dazzling in their variety, impressive in their efficacy, and democratic in their widespread accessibility, out-of-wedlock births have gone from 10 percent in 1970 to 42 percent today (largely among poor women with access to government-provided contraceptives).
In its extension to religious institutions, the HHS mandate can only reach a very narrow slice of the population: women who aren’t poor enough to get government assistance, yet aren’t well-off enough to afford their own contraception, can’t get any other help, and have no alternative but to work for an objecting religious institution. On behalf of this vanishingly small number of women, the Obama administration is willing to risk a political backlash and a rebuke in the courts.
If the mandate were only about extending contraception coverage, exempting religious institutions would be obvious. But it’s more than that. It is about bringing institutions thought to be retrograde to heel, and discrediting their morality. It is kulturkampf disguised as public health.
from The Obamacare Trifecta by Charles Krauthammer:
Has anyone considered the import of this new mandate? The president of the United States has just ordered private companies to give away for free a service that his own health and human services secretary has repeatedly called a major financial burden.
On what authority? Where does it say that the president can unilaterally order a private company to provide an allegedly free-standing service at no cost to certain select beneficiaries?
This is government by presidential fiat. In Venezuela, that’s done all the time. Perhaps we should call Obama’s “accommodation” Presidential Decree No. 1.
…this breathtaking arrogation of power is simply the logical extension of Washington’s takeover of the private system of medical care — a system Obama farcically pretends to be maintaining.
Under Obamacare, the state treats private insurers the way it does government-regulated monopolies and utilities. It determines everything of importance. Insurers, by definition, set premiums according to risk. Not anymore. The risk ratios (for age, gender, smoking, etc.) are decreed by Washington. This is nationalization in all but name. The insurer is turned into a middleman, subject to state control — and presidential whim.
from White House: Freedom is Dangerous and Wrong by Yuval Levin:
…merely restores the conscience protections that existed before Obamacare. And even that modest measure, simply allowing employers to have some measure of control over the services they will now be compelled to purchase for their employees, is asserted by the administration to be dangerous and wrong. The idea that “any employer could restrict access to any service they say they object to” is not some crime against humanity. It’s called freedom.
The White House’s reaction is yet further proof that the debate surrounding the HHS rule is about much more than religious liberty—and indeed is about much more than the HHS rule. It is about liberty as such, and the threats posed to it by Obamacare as a whole. It powerfully reinforces the case for replacing this detestable law, and for replacing its authors, with alternatives far more friendly to freedom and a properly limited government—not to mention far better able to actually address the problems with our health-care system.
As Carney says: “Decisions about medical care should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.” Quite right. And we might add: not by a woman and her federal bureaucracy either.