Tuesday, January 07, 2014

James Capretta notes that the Obama administration has purposely picked a fight with religious institutions, for purely political purposes:

As the legal wrangling continues, it's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that this clash between sweeping health-policy objectives and religious freedom was inevitable at some point, and that a judicial remedy can help define where the lines should be drawn going forward.

But this is far too benign a view of how this issue came about. There was nothing inevitable about this fight. The truth is that the Obama administration manufactured this confrontation and did so for entirely political reasons. Prior to 2011, the Obama administration never argued that the lack of access to "free" contraceptives and sterilization procedures, especially among women, was a burning national crisis that demanded immediate attention. The administration never raised this as an issue because there was no such crisis. Contraceptives have long been readily available and inexpensive in this country. The federal government subsidizes large numbers of clinics that provide these products essentially at no direct cost to consumers or for very low cost.

But in 2011 and early 2012, the Obama administration decided that access to "free" contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization procedures was such an important American "right" that it necessitated forcing all employers, including those with religious objections, to facilitate access to these products and services for their workers. When the inevitable objections were voiced, the Obama administration and its political allies pounced. Here was the divisive social issue they were looking for in the run-up to the 2012 election. Democrats condemned opponents of the mandate for engaging in a heretofore never mentioned "war on women" - the aim of which was supposedly to deny women access to their contraceptive methods. These political attacks were so preposterous that they were laughable. But the Obama campaign team wasn't easily embarrassed in 2012. They drove this theme, pitched to certain segments of women voters, all the way to Election Day.

The legal and political standoff that exists today is a direct result of the administration's decision to use the issue as a political weapon in the 2012 election. Having picked this fight, the administration could not back down and provide a reasonable exemption for all employers with religious objections because that would offend the group of supporters it courted so assiduously in the 2012 campaign.


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