by Christian M. Stempert
I had the opportunity on Monday morning to listen in on a press conference held by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. While their support for Obamacare in general, and the HHS Contraceptive Mandate in particular was expected, I was surprised by some of the statements that were made. Some were misguided, some misunderstood the truth, and others were simply false. Three of these arguments in particular struck me, because they have a common theme. This commonality is very telling, I think, because it sheds light not only on the assumptions behind the HHS Mandate, but liberal thought in general.
The first argument was made by Rev. Harry Knox, the recently-appointed President of RCRC. He made the case that when conservatives oppose the HHS Mandate on the grounds of religious liberty, they are actually taking away freedom of conscience and the right to practice religious beliefs from individuals, and placing over it a broad policy put in place by a religious institution.
The second was made by the President of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien. According to him, revoking the HHS Mandate “allows executives’ religious beliefs to trump individuals’ beliefs and consciences.” Advocates who oppose the Mandate “will not rest until every single worker must ask their employer to use…sometimes life-saving contraception.”
The third one comes from Rabbi Jessica Oleon of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, who said that “anything less than [full access to contraception at no cost to the user] is a violation of religious liberty, privacy, and conscience.”
The HHS Mandate is based on the assumption that everyone has a fundamental right to use contraceptives. And not just to use them, to but obtain them without having to pay for them. This is due to another assumption: that contraception is included in the “basic human right to healthcare.” This, however, is a false claim.
While individuals do have the right to decide if and when they want to have children, as liberals like to point out, that right also comes with the obligation to act responsibly and ensure that if no children are desired, no children are conceived. The HHS Mandate would essentially remove the obligation of sexual responsibility from the individuals, and force others to finance what is basically their lack of self-control.
People do have the right to decide when they want children, but they do not have the right to force others to finance their efforts to make that happen.
In the statement that opened the press conference, Knox asserted that it would violate the consciences and religious beliefs of many individuals if they brought a child into the world before they were ready. This is essentially the same argument that Rabbi Oleon made later on.
This may be true, but the idea that the HHS Mandate is the only way to keep people from having children before they’re ready is utterly fallacious.
Today in America, anyone can walk down to the local drug store and purchase effective contraceptives for just a few dollars. Or, if they want them for free, clinics and pregnancy counseling centers all over the country give them away at no charge. They won’t necessarily be the newest and most high-tech, but they will be effective. That’s the important part, right? And nowhere in this debate do we hear any mention of the most effective method of preventing pregnancy: abstinence.
This is just the logical outpouring of the Roe v. Wade. Regardless of what you think about the practice of abortion, the decision allowed for individuals to escape the consequences of their sexual activity. That’s exactly what’s going on here, and the HHS Mandate would force others – be it employers or the top 40% of American earners (the non-welfare recipients) – to finance this escapism.
What the HHS Mandate boils down to is the idea that some people have the “right” to avoid their own responsibilities by passing them on to others. This is a broad principle that has dominated liberal thought in America for nearly a century.
Personal responsibility is part of the beauty of the American Dream. It doesn’t just mean that you have to deal with your own mistakes; it also means that you get to reap the benefits of your own good choices and labor. When people stop being accountable for their own actions, they undermine the foundation for being rewarded on the basis of their deeds, as well.
NOTE: One more point is worth mentioning as well. In his statement – which was the most extreme and hostile toward conservatives of the entire group – Jon O’Brien said that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their allies “will not rest until every single worker must ask their employer to use…sometimes life-saving contraception.”
This is patently false. Conservatives are not arguing that employees have to get permission to use contraceptives. That is absurd. What conservatives are saying is that a healthcare plan that covers contraceptives is an additional benefit. If employees desire contraception coverage, they should have to ask their employers for it, just as they would any other fringe benefit, such as dental insurance, a company car, or a few extra vacation days. No one is pushing to ban insurance plans that provide contraception coverage, just that these additional benefits not be legally mandatory.