Thank you, Politico, for publishing the rare story on the lawsuits filed against the Obama administration over the Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, and sterilization mandate.
During the 2012 general election, many reporters wrote as if the religious-liberty controversy over this “contraception” mandate was resolved — which is exactly what the White House has contended, despite the lawsuits. The coverage of an Obama appearance with Sandra Fluke (soon-to-be woman of the year?) on the campaign trail in Denver in August was one such remarkable exercise in journalistic malpractice. And you’ll recall the U.S. Catholic bishops correcting Joe Biden after his claim that the problem was solved during the one vice-presidential debate. So it is no small thing that Politico reports today on the 40 lawsuits, with 110 plaintiffs and counting, fighting in federal court for religious liberty.
Of course, anyone who didn’t make it beyond the third graf, where it is explained that “dozens of lawsuits have been filed in protest of the Obama administration’s policy that most employers include no-cost coverage of FDA-approved prescription contraceptives in health plans” might miss that the cost to employers like the evangelical Wheaton College, Hobby Lobby, a Protestant Bible publisher, and the University of Notre Dame is not to their wallets but to their consciences, which the president once said he would protect, in South Bend, Ind., on the very campus of one of the plaintiffs, as you may recall.
There are also crippling fines that will hit schools and other faith-based social-service organizations who refuse to comply with the mandate when the one-year grace period the administration gave the likes of the Catholic Archdioceses of New York and Washington, D.C. (both plaintiffs), is up.
Anyone who makes it to the third page is met with this caricature of the debate:
Body or soul? Women’s health versus free exercise of religion
It’s a wee bit more complicated than that, of course. Does “women’s health” necessarily mean forcing religious entities and individuals with moral objections to abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and female sterilization? When did we have the vote on treating fertility as a disease and pregnancy as a “Preventative Service,” as the Department of Health and Human Services does with this regulation?
And why should kids in the poorest schools in the poorest areas of D.C. have to suffer because Planned Parenthood wants to make a radical policy federally mandated? (Hadley Heath, a young Protestant libertarian at the Independent Women’s Forum, was very good on this in recent months.)
I’m grateful that this particularly piece does make clear that the Department of Justice is arguing in court — shocking to my mind, but mine might be soon on the margins — that individuals who run businesses surrender their religious liberty when they choose to become HVAC company or arts-and-craftsstore owners. I’m grateful, at least, someone is paying attention besides those who have realized they have an unexpected conscience clash with a new, narrow understanding of religious liberty in America. These changes come by regulation and rule-making, to which most don’t pay attention.
And the results of this past election are good evidence that relatively few of us are still paying attention.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty continues to have a — and be a — great resource for anyone who cares to track what’s going on in the courts in regard to religious liberty and this particular radical HHS mandate.