Another provision of the health law authorized the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to require employers to cover preventive services in their insurance policies. She decided that almost all employers would have to cover contraception, sterilization and possibly abortion-causing drugs, such as Ella, whether or not the employers objected on religious grounds.

That edict flew in the face of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which stipulated that the government can override religious conscience only when it is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest. Republican senators had warned Sebelius of this issue before she imposed the rule. She has admitted that even after their letter, her department imposed it without either requesting a legal analysis from the Justice Department or producing its own memo. Most judges who have ruled on this issue, including some Democratic appointees, have found that the regulation does violate the law.

Last summer, Obama directed immigration agencies not to deport some illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children, and to give them work-authorization permits. In effect, he implemented much of the DREAM Act that Congress has long debated, but never enacted. Defenders of this action said he was merely prioritizing scarce law-enforcement resources, but that excuse won’t wash: It would mean that a future Republican president could announce, for example, that he isn’t going to burden the bureaucracy with collecting capital-gains taxes.

Even if Obama were right about these policies — and I’m sympathetic to the goal of the DREAM Act — he went about them the wrong way, disregarding laws he swore to execute.