The Corner

Do Americans Even Know about the Choice They Are about to Make on Religious Freedom?

I agree with much that has been said about last night’s debate. That the questions came from disappointed Obama voters kept it at a tone that could mean advantage Romney with independents.

But I confess a little disappointment. Mitt Romney was right and clear to point out that he doesn’t want to take away anyone’s birth control, that the access-crisis posture of the Obama administration is ridiculous at best, cynical and manipulative at worst. But, I guess much like people who wished Paul Ryan had gone on one more sentence in reaction to Joe Biden’s claim that all is well with Catholic and other religious institutions in regard to contraceptive, abortion-drug, and sterilization coverage (the one Catholic bishops corrected the vice president on), I was waiting for the moment where Governor Romney would do the educating he’s done on the campaign trail at times; some of the undecideds in New York might benefit from knowing what is going on on the religious-freedom front here.

Last week Ryan pointed out what so few people do: that there are all these people suing the Department of Health and Human Services. Of course there is a still a problem with the HHS mandate if Notre Dame is in court over it. I’d hope that in the coming weeks, Governor Romney, while the camera is on him, will explain this issue with the same confidence with which President Obama proclaims his allegiance to Planned Parenthood (mentioned, gratuitously, three times during the Hofstra debate). Romney has done it before, it was just overlooked by much of the media at the time. 

It isn’t an ideological point to protect conscience rights — Barack Obama even once said he believed in such a thing. Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton back in the day were into such a thing.

Last night the president said: “You know a major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health-care choices that women are making. I think that’s a mistake. In my health-care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured.”

Under Obamacare, politicians in Washington have decided all our health-care choices — and bureaucrats, at that: this particular coverage point wasn’t debated out in the open, it was proclaimed under regulatory edict by powers granted in a legislation inherently hostile to conscience — insisting that employers cover abortion-drugs, sterilization, and contraception, even if we as individuals and as institutions and business owners believe these to be morally wrong.

No one is knocking on women’s doors telling them they can’t have access to these things, but the identity of an institution and an individual conscience should not be under attack on account of what Planned Parenthood’s president considers basic health care. Catholic schools (colleges and inner-city schools), hospitals, charities; evangelical schools, family businesses (including a Bible publisher) — all find themselves in an impossible situation because of this administration: comply, against what they believe, or face crippling fines that would shut them down.

Nearly 40 years after Roe, here we are, treating fertility as a disease as mandated policy. I don’t think we will ever begin to address how fundamentally unhealthy this is until we deal with it out in the open. And we’re still not quite there yet.

If Barack Obama gets away with this eroding of religious liberty, it’s going to be out of ignorance. These next few weeks, Americans ought to consider how they would answer the question: What did you do when the U.S. was eroding religious freedom?

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