The Corner

White House: Freedom is Dangerous and Wrong

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Laura Bassett report on the administration’s response to congressional efforts to overturn its contraception, sterilization, and abortion-drug mandate:

Unbowed by the dust-up from last week’s contraception debate, the Obama administration has jumped feet-first into the next round.


White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in a statement to The Huffington Post, weighed in heavily against a toughly-worded measure being considered in the Senate that would greatly restrict women’s access to critical health care services.

Just what does this “toughly worded measure” do? Carney puts it plainly himself:

“Let’s be clear about what’s at stake,” said Carney. “The proposal being considered in the Senate applies to all employers — not just religious employers. And it isn’t limited to contraception. Any employer could restrict access to any service they say they object to. That is dangerous and it is wrong. Decisions about medical care should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.”

So it says that any employer can decide what kind of insurance he does and doesn’t want to purchase for his employees. Sounds very tough indeed.


As Carney or his boss might say: Let’s be clear. As things stand today, employers don’t have to provide insurance coverage to their employees, though many choose to do so, and if they do so they can provide whatever kind of insurance they choose (within the constraints of existing state laws and mandates)—based on their or their employees’ preferences and needs. Obamacare will require them to provide insurance or else pay a large fine to the federal government. And under the new HHS rule, it will also require that insurance (in the case of religious and non-religious employers alike) to include coverage for contraceptive and abortive drugs and sterilization. Senator Blunt’s bill would allow employers to avoid being put in the impossible position of having to choose between providing access to services or products that violate their moral or religious convictions or paying a large fine.


Many of the bill’s supporters (though not all) would no doubt like to repeal Obamacare altogether—since the very nature of that statute means that situations like this are unavoidable. But at this point, in response to the HHS rule’s particular offense against our constitutional order, they have proposed a narrower measure that rolls back only a small portion of the law’s offenses against our basic liberties and merely restores the conscience protections that existed before Obamacare. And even that modest measure, simply allowing employers to have some measure of control over the services they will now be compelled to purchase for their employees, is asserted by the administration to be dangerous and wrong. The idea that “any employer could restrict access to any service they say they object to” is not some crime against humanity. It’s called freedom.


The White House’s reaction is yet further proof that the debate surrounding the HHS rule is about much more than religious liberty—and indeed is about much more than the HHS rule. It is about liberty as such, and the threats posed to it by Obamacare as a whole. It powerfully reinforces the case for replacing this detestable law, and for replacing its authors, with alternatives far more friendly to freedom and a properly limited government—not to mention far better able to actually address the problems with our health-care system.


As Carney says: “Decisions about medical care should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.” Quite right. And we might add: not by a woman and her federal bureaucracy either. The desire to have those decisions be made by a woman and her doctor does not point to Obamacare. It points to a reform of our health-care system that would give individuals more options and more control, and would use robust competition among insurers and providers—rather than yet another layer of oppressive regulations—to reduce the cost and improve the quality of American health care. It points to freedom, which means it points to the need to elect a new president.

Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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