Washington, D.C. — “Bosses” and “bedrooms.” Those were the words of the day outside the Supreme Court when I got there before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice were out in full force wanting the press to know that “the people united cannot be defeated,” making the rally indistinguishable from any other left-wing rally of recent decades.
“Stick to the glue guns and stay away from my birth control,” one of two emcees at the rally said at one point.
Women use birth control, supporters of the Obama administration’s abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate want you to know. “Access” to birth control is a “human right,” speakers asserted throughout the morning, as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties had their day in Court, challenging the Obamacare regulation. “This is an important case for reproductive justice,” Dorothy Roberts, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, explained.
“Pro-student, pro-birth control!” By the time the press scrum gathered to hear these strange creatures who take their religious faith seriously (even at the office) – the Evangelical Green family that runs Hobby Lobby (and religious book stores) and the Hahn family that runs the Pennsylvania Conestoga Wood company – the pro-birth-control folks were winning the screaming contest. But on the other side of the Court, the supporters of the plaintiffs explained that they were as concerned about the conscience rights of the screamers as they were their own. The argument wasn’t about anyone taking away birth control, but the government forcing Americans who own businesses to choose between their conscience and a government mandate.
“Women are bosses, too,” a spunky Ashley McGuire from the Catholic Association and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty pointed out.
And Meg McDonnell, who represents Women Speak for Themselves, a kitchen-table organization that started from a simple petition drive (that first appeared on National Review Online) when the Left asked “where are the women” incessantly and then didn’t seem to notice the 41,000 who signed the petition, said: “Our women stand with Green and the Hahn families in their pursuit for protection for their deeply held beliefs. Both family businesses currently provide benefit packages that are more generous than is required and than many of their competitors provide. Both families run their businesses with the demands of family life at the heart of their practice. All the Green and Hahn families want is to continue running their businesses as their consciences direct. The HHS Mandate, and particularly the expectation for businesses to pay for drugs which can act to kill an embryo – a human life – interferes with the Greens’ and the Hahns’ freedom to run their businesses according to their consciences.”
“Some of our women,” she continued, “agree with the Green and Hahn families’ objections to these drugs, some do not. All of our women agree, however, that businesses with consciences are good for women, good for families, and good for America. No one speaks for all women on these issues. Women speak for themselves.”
McDonnell spoke to an issue that might be the most misunderstood about this religious-liberty battle over the Obamacare HHS Mandate: Not only are the Greens and the Hahns not in the bedrooms of their employees making contraception decisions for them, the Greens and Hahns only ever rejected the mandate because of the abortion-inducing drugs that are included. “Drugs and devices that can destroy life are included in the mandate,” Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life repeated twice. “It is un-American,” she said, “to be forced to provide these.” Still, on MSNBC later in the day one reporter claimed that opponents of the mandate were equating all contraception with abortion. No, there are abortion-inducing drugs such as Ella included in the mandate. That’s how the Obama administration wound up with such a robustly ecumenical coalition against the mandate, as different churches and religious groups joined the Catholic bishops, who had been raising concerns since long before the Affordable Care Act passed.
As each side has a different argument, there was a scene outside the Supreme Court this morning that was emblematic of this years’ long fight over religious liberty which the Obama administration forced.
At one point, after a Planned Parenthood medical director explained that a Hobby Lobby win would mean women having to choose between buying groceries and buying schoolbooks or paying for birth control, a graphic image of an aborted baby showed up. Immediately all manner of abortion-rights and anti-Hobby Lobby signs, along with a rainbow flag and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force sign, worked to cover it up.
“Don’t be distracted. That’s not what this is about. It’s about women’s health care,” one of two emcees insisted. This echoed the insistence of the Obama administration, as they coaxed pro-life Democrats into voting for the bill, that a faux executive order would safeguard taxpayer participation in abortion coverage, and that abortion would never have anything to do with the bill. Meanwhile, it’s abortion that brings the Greens and Hahns to the Court.
At one point, Penny Nance, from Concerned Women for America, motioned to the other side outside the Court, making just that point. But over on that other side, a woman had just explained that the Hobby Lobby position was: “No birth control. Women are bad.” And another, with an intimately graphic image of her own: “I love my boss but I don’t want her there when I’m in stirrups. That’s a private moment.”
One only has to be in the presence of Nicholas Hahn and his wife for a moment outside the Court to realize this is the last place they want to be, the last conversation they want to be having (mercifully they didn’t hear about the stirrups). “Never did we think that our government” would force us here, they said. But in the snow, in front of the cameras, they stepped up to the plate.
“No one should be forced to give up their religious freedom just because they start a business,” Sarah Torre from the Heritage Foundation said. “The Obama administration has moved from ‘choice’ to coercion,” Charmaine Yoest from Americans United for Life emphasized.
“It’s about f***ing woman,” one woman said at one point when I went back over to her side. Not far away from her was a lone forty-something man with a handwritten sign: “Abortion on demand. No apologies.”
Cecile Richards echoed the my-body-not-my-boss’s business talking points when she left the Court session. It was a reminder that she was in the room as the administration crafted its self-described “accommodation” for some of those complaining about the narrowing of religious liberty, one that didn’t work for at least 300 plaintiffs who are in court opposing the mandate still. It was a reminder of what the Hobby Lobby case is about: Sexual revolutionary values trumping freedom. As more than one speaker and sign put it, get with the program or get out of business. Welcome to religious liberty in America. As one sign puts it:
Religious freedom is for when you’re inside a house of worship; don’t dare enter the public square with it. We’ll shout you down with cries of equality, to paraphrase one LGBT leader who spoke outside the Court. Will freedom be defined by whomever has the most votes on the Supreme Court and wins the media? Do the Little Sisters of the Poor have a prayer in that America?