"It's not about contraception," thundered GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum. "It's about economic liberty. It's about freedom of speech. It's about freedom of religion. It's about government control of your lives. And it's got to stop!"
He was talking, of course, about the Obama administration's recent decisions first to force large religious employers to pay for birth control and "preventive services" (including sterilization and abortifacient drugs), and its subsequent decision to demand that the relevant insurance companies provide it for "free" instead.
The "accommodation" -- the White House rightly refuses to call it a compromise -- is a farce. If you're paying for health insurance -- or if you self-insure, as many institutions do -- shifting responsibilities to the insurance companies doesn't shift the costs, just the paperwork. A Catholic hospital would still pay for the services; there just wouldn't be a line item for it in the monthly insurance bill.
That's not accommodation; that's laundering.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claims that the move will save money -- an ounce of prevention saves a pound of "cure" -- so religious institutions will incur no additional costs. If that's true, why haven't those greedy insurance companies been doing it all along?
If anything, President Obama has made the situation worse. The White House fact sheet seems to offer no exemption at all for religious institutions -- or for anyone else: "Under the new policy ... women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she [sic] works." That sounds like a complete win for the "Get Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries" crowd to me.
Of course, if religious institutions don't want to violate their consciences, they can simply stop offering health insurance altogether (providing yet another example of how Obama misled voters when he promised that the Affordable Care Act wouldn't cause anyone to lose their current coverage). That would at least allow religious organizations to uphold their principles. The result, however, would be to force taxpayers to subsidize practices many find morally abhorrent. In other words, Obama's solution is to make paying taxes a moral dilemma for many pro-lifers.
I think Santorum's argument is entirely right: This is about freedom, full stop. When we empower bureaucrats and politicians to make such huge personal decisions for us, it becomes impossible to avoid trampling on liberty. The Roman Catholic Church was simply the first in the leviathan's path.