The Wall Street Journal often publishes op-eds from “the other side,” perhaps out of a sense of fairness, perhaps to show how bad the other side’s reasoning sometimes is – “Don’t take our word for it; see for yourself.” That rationale must have been at play in the decision to publish in this morning’s edition a truly remarkable piece from the pens of three Senate women, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Barbara Boxer of California, and Patty Murray of Washington.
In “Why the Birth-Control Mandate Makes Sense,” such sense as emerges from the senators’ effort to defend the Obama administration’s decision to force religious institutions to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacients comes from a simple claim, repeated in several variations: doing so would be good – for women, for children, for families, for businesses and consumers. Indeed, “our nation will be better for it.”
Say no more! Who could be against it? We don’t have to look far for the answer:
Sadly, there is an aggressive and misleading campaign to deny this benefit to women. It is being waged in the name of religious liberty. But the real forces behind it are the same ones that sought to shut down the federal government last year over funding for women's health care. They are the same forces that just tried to pressure the Susan G. Komen Foundation into cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screenings. Once again, they are trying to force their politics on women's personal health-care decisions.
There we have it: it’s women and the rest of us, up against these sinister “real forces,” hiding behind religious liberty. In sketching this little morality play, it seems not to have occurred to the good senators that there might be people of good will on the other side. That blind spot emerges nicely in a single paragraph:
Those now attacking the new health-coverage requirement claim it is an assault on religious liberty, but the opposite is true. Religious freedom means that Catholic women who want to follow their church's doctrine can do so, avoiding the use of contraception in any form.
At this point in the argument, if the policy is not an assault on religious liberty, one would expect the senators to show how it protects the religious rights of those Catholic (and other) institutional administrators who are forced to take actions their religious doctrines prohibit. But the rights of those people don’t even arise in the senators’ argument – as if they didn’t even exist. Instead, the focus continues to be exclusively on women, for in the very next sentence they say: “But the millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.”
Who is “forcing” such women “to follow religious doctrine”? They’re perfectly free to use contraceptives, to seek abortions, and to do whatever else their beliefs permit. They just can’t expect others who object to such practices to pay for them. Nor do religious charitable organizations that receive public funds lose their rights either, not if the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions still has weight.
And so we come to the heart of the matter. ObamaCare is just the latest example of the perils of collectivization. When we’re forced to be “all in this together,” we’re forced to fight for every “carve-out” of liberty. Those progressive Catholics who supported ObamaCare should have thought of that before they worked to throw us all in the common pot. This incident is simply an early example of the many battles to come if ObamaCare survives the litigation and the elections ahead.