National Journal: Loss in HHS contraception mandate case would “restrict access” for women

posted at 12:41 pm on March 13, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Behold, the layers of editors and fact checkers. With oral arguments scheduled at the Supreme Court in less than two weeks in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases, National Journal’s Sophie Novack and Clara Ritger offer up a primer titled “Everything You Wanted To Know About The Contraception Mandate (But Were Afraid To Ask),” as a way to educate readers on the stakes of the case. Most of this recounting of the legal fight is fairly straightforward — until readers get to the description of what happens if the plaintiffs prevail:

Implications: A win for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would limit women’s access to contraception, essentially allowing any business owner to refuse to provide birth-control coverage on the grounds of religious freedom.

That, in a polite word, is absolute nonsense. Nothing in this case “limits access to contraception.” The issue at hand is whether businesses owned by people who have religious objections to contraception should be forced to provide it for free to their employees, not bar them from purchasing it on their own. Employees (contra NJ, it’s not limited to women) who draw salaries have full latitude to use their income to buy their own contraception and sterilization services.

The problem for the government in this case is that the RFRA — passed under Bill Clinton, by the way — requires the government to prove that there is a compelling government interest in forcing business owners to go against their religious beliefs. In the hypothetical of the small-town pharmacist who refuses to dispense such supplies to a population unable to access it any other way, that might qualify as both compelling and a state interest. Unfortunately for the government, that’s simply not the case here; there is no compelling state interest in forcing employers and schools to provide contraception and sterilization for free, when contraception and sterilization services are widely and easily obtained in the US. The government has other options for this interest, including the current Title X program that distributes contraception to low-income Americans, which has been in place since the early 1970s to little objection.

I’ve linked this many times, but the government’s own CDC study shows that women have had no issues accessing contraception now or over the last 30 years.  That long-range study found 99% of all sexually-active women wishing to avoid pregnancy had accessed contraception, which is about as universal as it gets. This decision will not have any impact on the status quo, or narrow those choices in any way.

Now, some may want employers to expand compensation to give them free stuff, and some employers may see value in offering this to their employees. There isn’t anything preventing them from doing so now.  For those who say that women can’t figure out how to budget to buy contraception and need employers and schools to give it to them for free, I’d suggest taking the advice of the man behind the contraception mandate. Just replace “health care” with “contraception” — which Obama argues are synonymous anyway — and breathe deep the hypocrisy:

The President responded that “if you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.” He added that if a family member gets sick, the father “will wish he had paid that $300 a month.”

There’s your fact check.


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