It’s Not About Contraceptives, Not Really

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on the “Blunt amendment,” part of a multi-year transportation funding bill. Sponsored by Roy Blunt (R-MO), the amendment would allow employers to opt out of providing employee health insurance coverage that violates their religious or moral convictions.

Democrats are vigorously opposing the measure as an attack on women’s rights, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius encouraging the Senate “to reject this cynical attempt to roll back decades of progress in women’s health.” Most Republicans support the amendment in the name of the religious liberty protected under the First Amendment, though some worry about the implications for the upcoming elections.

Both sides seem to be missing the deeper point: This battle is exactly what you get when—in the words the president uses so often, which have come to capture his fundamental agenda—“We’re all in this together.”

Dismissing the amendment as “politics masquerading as morality,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) declaimed:

It allows any insurance company or any employer to deny coverage for any service they choose, based on a religious belief or a moral conviction. What is a moral conviction? I have moral convictions. You have moral convictions. We have different moral convictions.

Precisely. That’s why, in a free society, we don’t throw everybody and everything into the common pot. We allow individuals to pursue their individual goals according to their “different moral convictions.” We don’t force them into relationships, whether with employers or insurance companies or whomever, that offend those convictions. Yet the more we socialize ever more of life—as we’ve gone far in doing with everything from health care to retirement to education and so much more—the more we deny individuals the choices that would otherwise be available to them in a truly free society.

We haven’t yet reached the point, as in some societies, where we regulate, through force of law, where people may live, or travel, or go to college, or what medical procedures they may or may not have. But with Obamacare, especially, we’re headed down that road. That’s why an AP poll last August showed that 82 percent of Americans opposed Obamacare’s individual mandate.

Republicans would be smart, therefore, if they stopped talking about contraceptives and started talking about liberty—about where this country is headed. The Tea Party people understood that, for the most part, and look what they accomplished in the last election. The country is ready for bold but credible ideas about getting government out of our lives. We need people willing to say that the only thing we’re all in together is making this again a free country.