Obama’s totalitarian impulse
The Obama administration’s “contraceptive mandate” was an assault on the Catholic Church and on religious freedom. But more basically, it was an assault on the freedom of private institutions to exist free of state control.
It was mostly ignored by the media that the mandate required all insurance providers to cover not only contraceptives but also abortion-inducing drugs such as Plan B (the morning after pill) and ella, which can cause early abortions. As Americans United for Life noted, the preventive care guidelines for women were actually the abortion-inducing drugs mandate.
But in announcing his administration’s “accommodation” on Friday, President Obama talked about contraception as if it were one of our most basic human rights.
He called access to free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs for all women a matter of “basic fairness” and a “core principle” that needed to be balanced against the constitutional rights to religious liberty and free speech.
Under the accommodation, women will still get free birth control no matter where they work. But organizations that view contraception and abortion as an unconscionable violation of their faith will be allowed to refuse to cover it. Insurance companies will have to step up to cover those costs.
The Obama administration, supported by a cadre of aging feminists and pro-abortion radicals, had tried to frame the debate surrounding the mandate as a matter of “preventive care” and “women’s health.” But even some of Obama’s most vocal supporters understood that there were higher principles to consider.
The original mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, included only a very narrow exemption for religious institutions that employ primarily members of their own faith, such as most churches. But the exemption did not include religious hospitals, charities or schools.
As Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan said, “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience.”
The regulation would have forced Catholic institutions to violate a central tenet of their faith. The belief that artificial birth control and abortion are immoral is a fundamental Catholic teaching that stems from the church’s beliefs about the dignity of the human person.
The mandate is part of Obama’s broader assault on the First Amendment. Obama once claimed to support “robust” conscience protections for those with religious or moral objections to participating in life-destroying procedures.
But he has regularly acted to strip those protections. In the early days of his administration, Obama overturned a provision issued by the Bush administration that helped enforce the federal conscience protection law.
Last October, Obama’s HHS stopped its funding of successful Catholic programs that help victims of human trafficking because they don’t refer for abortions for the victims.
To Obama and other liberals, contraceptives and abortifacients constitute basic health care. Obama has called free birth control “essential care” and abortion “one of the most fundamental rights we possess.”
Pregnancy is regarded as a disease to be prevented. As Sen. Barbara Boxer said about free contraception and abortion pills, “It’s medicine, and women deserve their medicine.”
To Obama and his allies, the “principle” of free birth control is at least as important as the freedom of religion, as Sebelius hinted when she declared that the mandate struck “the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”
The administration presented the decision as a matter of fairness for women. But it’s not as if women would have had their birth control taken away from them. Before the administration got involved, women could pay for their own contraceptives, work for an employer who paid for them or get them free from the government, as many people do.
Obama’s disdain for the Constitution has become too obvious to deny. Obama once said that the Constitution “reflects some deep flaws in American culture.” More recently he complained that “our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.”
Obama views the Constitution mainly as an impediment to controlling institutions such as churches and families that stand between the state and individuals.
Liberals usually invoke the imaginary “separation of church and state” in their attempts to banish public displays of faith. But the most radical leftists use the opposite means to achieve a similar end.
Instead of erecting a wall to divide religious and public life, they favor using the brute force of the state to control all that the church does. This is common in places like China and Cuba, where churches exist but are virtually powerless and where secularism is the real state religion.
Obama’s totalitarian impulse rivals that of any third world dictator. With the Obama administration’s contraceptive and abortion “accommodation,” those who respect the Constitution may think they’ve won. But Obama’s next assault on the Constitution and on our most basic rights is just around the corner.