The last two times I fisked, I was attacking solo acts. This time, I get a triumvirate, as the three most liberal women in the United States Senate, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, and Jeanne Shaheen, have joined together to write an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, justifying ObamaCare’s intrusion into the realm of religion. I cannot resist the fisk.
It was a historic victory for women’s health when the Obama administration changed the law to require private health plans to provide preventive services including breast exams, HIV screening and contraception for free. This new policy will help millions of women get the affordable care they need.
[This is simply ideology blah-blah. Women get free stuff. Men don’t. It hardly seems fair to me.]
Now, 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.
[The above is an impressively misleading paragraph, conflating core constitutional rights with marketplace pressures. The ObamaCare fight is a war of religious liberty, insofar as the Obama administration, contrary to the limitation that the First Amendment imposes upon the federal government, is trying to force religious organizations to engage in practices that directly contradict core doctrinal matters. The other fight arose from the fact that a privately funded charity wanted to stop providing money to an organization that (a) is being investigated for corruption; (b) receives massive amounts of federal dollars; (c) is one of the largest abortion providers in the country; and (d) does almost no “breast-cancer screenings” but, instead, simply refers women to other providers. Having the facts kind of makes a mockery out the triumvirate’s claim that those opposed to the ObamaCare mandate “are trying to force their politics on women’s personal health-care decisions.”]
We are very glad that the president has stood up to these forces while protecting religious freedom on all sides. His administration should be commended, not criticized.
[There’s that new-speak again — the president “protects” religious freedom by imposing doctrinal mandates on religious organizations.]
Contraception was included as a required preventive service on the recommendation of the independent, nonprofit Institute of Medicine and other medical experts because it is essential to the health of women and families. Access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, and is linked to overall good health outcomes. Nationwide, 1.5 million women use contraceptives only as treatment for serious medical conditions. Most importantly, broadening access to birth control will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, a goal we all should share.
[Been here, done that. This is the big lie at the heart of the Obama administration’s attack on traditional religious institutions. These harpies constantly conflate the availability of birth control with funding for birth control. They are not the same. Women in America can get birth control. The government can fund organizations — indeed, it already does with the monies that go to Planned Parenthood — that provide all these birth control options. Forcing religious organizations to pay for birth control, sterilization and abortifacients, however, both exceeds the government’s power and contravenes the limitations the Bill of Rights imposes on government. This is not about whether women should have birth control; it’s about with the government can force churches to pay for it.]
Proper family planning through birth control results in healthier mothers and children, which benefits all of us. It saves us money too: The National Business Group on Health—a nonprofit whose members are primarily Fortune 500 companies and large public-sector employers—estimated that it costs 15% to 17% more for employers to exclude birth-control coverage, both because other medical costs rise and because of lost productivity.
[See above. Apples and oranges. Even accepting as true every single statement in the above paragraph, that still doesn’t give the administration the right or power to force churches to fund birth control, sterilization and abortifacients.]
Contraception is not a controversial issue for the vast majority of Americans. Some 99% of women in the U.S. who are or have been sexually active at some point in their lives have used birth control, including 98% of Catholic women, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A recent survey by Hart Research shows 71% of American voters, including 77% of Catholic women voters, supported this provision broadening access to birth control.
Consistent with other federal policies, churches and other groups dedicated to teaching religious doctrine are exempted from providing this coverage under a “conscience clause.” But the law does include institutions that have historic religious ties but also have a broader mission, such as hospitals and universities. That’s also consistent with federal policy—and with laws that already exist in many states.
[Boot strapping argument here. The second sentence assumes that the law is allowed to include institutions that aren’t dedicated solely to religious activity, and staffed solely by core religious employees, and then says that, because the law includes them, therefore the inclusion is consistent with federal policy. And, as did Sebelius, these gals wrongly look to state law, as if the states’ acts give the federal government powers denied it under the Constitution.]
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. But the millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.
[Nothing now prevents church employees from buying and using contraception. They’ve been able to do so freely, in all 50 states, since the Griswold case in 1965. What does exist now is a Big Rule saying that the government cannot force religious organizations to engage in acts that violate doctrine. The First Amendment is explicit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Right now, there are no laws prohibiting Catholic women from doing whatever the heck they please regarding their health care and contraceptive choices. The only difference now is that never before has the federal government had the temerity to make laws, rules, and regulations that directly implicate an establishment of religion, prohibiting it from freely exercising its faith.]
Catholic hospitals and charities are woven into the fabric of our broader society. They serve the public, receive government funds, and get special tax benefits. We have a long history of asking these institutions to play by the same rules as all our other public institutions.
[Rhetorical sleight of hand. When it comes to playing by workplace rules, the previous rules didn’t attack doctrine. This here is a different type of rule.]
So let’s remember who this controversy is really about—the women of America. Already too many women struggle to pay for birth control. According to the Hart Research survey cited above, more than one-third of women have reported having difficulty affording birth control. It can cost $600 a year for prescription contraceptives. That’s a lot of money for a mother working as a medical technician in a Catholic hospital, or a teacher in a private religious school.
[And we’re right back to the cost-shifting argument. See my discussion, above.]
Improving access to birth control is good health policy and good economic policy. It will mean healthier women, healthier children and healthier families. It will save money for businesses and consumers. We should hold to the promise we made women and provide this access broadly. Our nation will be better for it.
I was going to wrap this up by saying I’ve seldom seen a more ignorant and dishonest piece of advocacy writing. I’ve decided, though, that it’s not ignorant. These gals know what they’re doing and what game they are playing. This is simply dishonest. It is, however, a fine piece of writing coming from acolytes of the Constitutional law professor who now discovers, seemly for the first time in his intellectual life, that the Founders wisely wanted to limit a nascent dictator’s power:
[T]his week Barack Obama proved himself once again the perfect epigone of Woodrow Wilson—the first president to criticize the Constitution and the principles of the American Founding—with his remarks to NBC’s Matt Lauer that one reason he hasn’t succeeded in fulfilling his campaign promises to transform the world is that “it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.” It turns out? He’s just discovering this now? (Well, one thing that “turns out” is that the only constitutional law Obama actually taught at the University of Chicago was the equal protection clause. Apparently he skipped over that whole “separation of powers” stuff.)