Jonah is right, of course, that there are neither free lunches nor free abortifacients, and that it is infuriating to have our intelligence insulted by the Left’s incessant claims about “free” medical coverage. But I want to focus on a different aspect of cost because, as I’ve said any number of times over the years, once you lose the language battle, the substantive policy defeat is sure to follow. In the debate over the mandate, we are losing the language battle in two critical areas.
First, the Left is getting away with saying that religious organizations want to deny coverage for birth control. That is sheer idiocy. As I contended in last weekend’s column, contraceptives and abortifacients are cheap, cheap, cheap in this country. If there were enough months in the year, you could have two second-trimester abortions for less than I spend on pizza — to say nothing of flat-screen TVs, iPods, X-boxes and the scores of other extravagances that the “poor” in America manage to score without government mandates. What we are talking about here is not walling people off from birth-control — condoms will still be free in New York City, the pill will still set you back less than $4 per week, and so on. The issue is whether people who have moral objections to abortion and contraception should be extorted by state power into paying for other people’s abortions and contraceptives. But that hardly means the latter will be denied.
Second, how dare the administration propose compromises and safe-harbors for “religious organizations”? I imagine they dare because the usual useful idiots (see, e.g., Michael Gerson, cited in Ramesh’s post Tuesday) are, as ever, warning conservatives not to “overreach” — this time, for exemptions that extend beyond corporate religious entities. The Bill of Rights, however, protects individual liberty from abusive government action. The First Amendment does not merely protect the religious liberty of groups of people who formally organize as a religious enterprise. It protects the individual believer, who has as much right as the Archdiocese of New York to resist government compulsion that violates his conscience. Under the Left’s First Amendment, we’re supposed to be deferential to every Saudi alien Islamic supremacist whack-job who wants to replace the Constitution with sharia, but an American citizen who personally objects to abortifacients should pipe down and pay up unless he’s the CEO of Catholic Charities? I don’t think so.
There is no denial of birth control: Birth control will be readily accessible at cheap prices for anyone who wants it, and the issue is not religious organizations but individual liberty — a matter on which there can be no compromise consistent with the Constitution. When it comes to “constitutional” rights that progressive judges have invented out of whole cloth, Leftists never compromise. Why should we be goaded into a compromise regarding rights that are expressly, undeniably part of the social compact?