Rights Theory, Liberty

Why Liberals Must Oppose the Contraception Mandate

As many of you know, the Obama administration has decided to force religious organizations to finance health insurance policies which pay for contraception (and sterilization). The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) objects to the policy on the grounds that they regard most uses of contraception as gravely immoral, and that therefore the mandate violates their religious liberty.

In response, the Obama Administration decided to force health insurance companies to pay for contraception if their associated religious organizations have a conscientious objection. Greg Mankiw has rightly argued that the healthcare costs will be “passed on to the purchaser,” that is, the RCC. The result is that the RCC still lacks the right to decline funding activities they deem sinful.

I contend that genuine liberals must oppose the mandate. The mandate is authoritarian because it employs coercion in ways that cannot be publicly justified, and so violates fundamental liberal principles.

To see why, consider that the foundational commitment of the liberal tradition is that the freedom and equality of persons creates a presumption against the use of coercion, a presumption that cannot be easily overridden. Thus the first question of liberal political philosophy is how to justify state coercion.

The most common principle that contemporary liberal political philosophers use to justify state coercion is derived from Rawls’s Political Liberalism, what Rawls calls the Liberal Principle of Legitimacy. Over the last two decades, this idea has been generalized into the public justification principle, which holds that coercion is justified only when each person has sufficient reason to accept it. When a citizen coerces others without a public justification, she oppresses them because they lack a compelling rationale for the coercion in question. Such coercion is illiberal.

I argue that the public justification principle clearly demonstrates that the mandate is illiberal because the coercion involved in the mandate cannot be publicly justified.

I. Who is Coercing Who?

In order to determine whether a law or policy is illiberal, we must describe the various forms of coercion it involves. For the mandate, this is easy: the Obama administration will force religious organizations to use their financial resources to support a practice they find sinful. (Under the new policy, they will coerce health insurance companies associated with religious organizations to do the same.) No other coercion is involved.

Defenders of the mandate insist that a woman’s reproductive liberty is significantly restricted if her employer refuses to pay for contraception. This is false. To see why, abstract. Is A’s liberty to X restricted if A’s boss refuses to pay for X? Especially when X is cheap and readily available? And when A can choose another employer? And when A’s government could provide X directly without using force against a voluntary association? No, no, no, and no.

I can see no way to generalize the moral relationship between women who wish to use contraception and their Roman Catholic employers into a plausible moral principle that demonstrates that the RCC is coercively blocking their employees from acquiring and using contraception.

Compare Cher’s recent tweets on the matter: “Don’t believe in the Right wing’s effort to Subjugate women! WHO R THESE MEN WHO THINK THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE WOMEN BACK TO THE STONE AGE!” The tweets go on, but Cher is incorrect (as is the similarly ridiculous Freedom From Religion Foundations’s NYTimes ad). Let’s be clear: no one is oppressing women. Instead, a religious organization doesn’t want to pay for contraception. That’s it.

The RCC may commit some other worrisome act in refusing to pay for contraception. But they are not coercing their employees not to use contraception. Authoritarians contend that if A refuses to buy X for B, that A uses coercion to prevent B from buying X. But that’s absurd.

The question for the liberal is therefore this: is there a sound public justification for the coercion that the Obama Administration proposes to employ against religious organizations?

II. The Mandate Cannot be Publicly Justified

There are two arguments that the mandate can be publicly justified. Both hold that the state’s interest in promoting and protecting women’s reproductive health overrides the liberty of the Roman Catholic Church. But this argument can be elaborated in two ways. First, one can admit that the liberty-interest of the RCC is legitimate, but maintain that it is overridden by the value of women’s health. Second, one can deny that the religious reasoning of the RCC has legitimate legal standing.

Harvard College administrator Erika Christakis makes the first argument, when she asks the following: “Why should an employer’s right to reject birth-control coverage trump a society’s collective imperative to reduce unintended pregnancy?” But this is illiberal. The liberal holds that religious liberty is a basic right. It is extremely hard to override even given the collective interest of society. Of course, the idea that society has such a collective imperative is implausible. But even the most ardent egalitarian Rawlsian has compelling reason to protect religious liberty against the violence of the democratic will. Rawls gives religious liberty lexical (that is, absolute) priority over other legislative matters. Christakis downplays the significance of the RCC’s religious liberty on the grounds that people have to do things they don’t like all the time. But she fails to distinguish between coercing people into doing things they dislike and forcing them to engage in serious immorality. Liberals have always argued that citizens deserve strong protections against the latter.

Molly Worthen, a professor of religious history at the University of Toronto, makes the second argument. She implausibly claims that:

When conservatives cry ‘freedom of religion’ and insist they mean something more than ‘freedom of worship,” this is what they mean: religious freedom is not just the freedom to gather in a room and pray one morning a week. It is the freedom to impose one’s own religious values on others.

The argument here is that religious liberty claims lack legal and constitutional standing in many cases because they entail the imposition of a particular religious view on those who reject it. But there is no plausible sense in which the RCC is imposing its religious views on its female employees. Even if many employer policies are coercive, their refusal to pay for contraception is not.

The same concerns plague the new policy, as the Obama Administration simply redirects the coercion in question to health insurance companies associated with the RCC. While many of these companies may not have conscientious objections to the mandate, they still lack sufficient reason to endorse the coercion in question. They have an arrangement with their RCC partners that both find satisfactory. The coercive alteration of this arrangement is groundless, as the arguments provided in its favor are unsound.

 III. Obama against His Justices

Despite the diversity of religious liberty jurisprudence in the United States over the last three centuries, there is surprising agreement that substantial church-state disentanglement is a worthwhile and feasible goal. Consider the recent Hosanna-Tabor decision to protect the right of a religious school to discriminate against a female teacher on the basis of her disputed claim that she was validly ordained. The decision was unanimous, including the Obama Administration’s own Supreme Court Justices (Kagan and Sotomayor). The justices agreed that churches can fire teachers, that is, deprive them of long-held jobs, in the interest of maintaining their doctrinal integrity. The state’s interest in protecting women from discrimination does not apply here, or so three liberal, female justices concluded. But if churches can fire people over doctrinal issues, then surely they can refuse to pay for contraception on the same grounds.

IV. Conclusion

Many commentators want to transcend and mock partisan wrangling on this topic and offer their own, new, cool angles. But let’s not forget the core issue: the Obama Administration is prepared to use force against a religious institution to promote its own scheme of values. This is illiberal, authoritarian, and cannot be implemented without injustice.

  • SavannahRob

    Health insurance is compensation for a job performed. An employer should not be able to direct an employee’s use of their compensation. That simple fact is obscured by the unfortunate circumstances of the American health care system- employers fund health care for most of us. If an employer must be coerced to allow an employee to do as they wish with their compensation, then so be it. Perhaps that coercion is government’s raison d’etre.

    It is trite and excruciatingly naive to expect Americans to get another job simply to find an employer who will allow them a proper range of health choices as part of their compensation. Most Americans feel fortunate to have a job or to have health care at all. Many have no choice but to choose an employer large enough to provide coverage for a sick spouse.

    If similar unfortunate accidents of history had given us employer-funded mortgages, would we be arguing about whether the employer could dictate living arrangements to the employee based on religious sentiments?

    • bcwatkins

      How are they directing compensation? The RCC is paying insurance companies $x to provide health insurance that does not cover birth control. To cover birth control, they would have to pay some higher level $y. In other words, they would have to increase employee compensation to provide insurance that covers more services. Simply because the level of compensation an employee receives doesn’t allow him to enjoy all the benefits he would like does not mean his compensation choices are being directed by the employer. Are you going to argue now that because I’d like to have a million dollar home with a Ferrari Enzo in the garage but my employer doesn’t pay me enough to afford those things that I am having the use of my compensation directed?

      • SavannahRob

        It’s not clear to me that covering contraceptives would increase the cost, and- more importantly here- that is not the argument that the RCC is making. Pregnancy, childbirth, and the entirety of childhood can all be very expensive for insurance companies, and those costs could be reduced with contraception.

        “Evidence from well-documented prior expansions of contraceptive coverage indicates that the cost to issuers of including coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in insurance offered to an employed population is zero.”

        • bcwatkins

          Well, if we look at all the evidence, and not just those studies cherry picked to support the HHS’s position, the findings are really inconclusive at best.


          And I have to say that the fact that insurance companies aren’t already providing free birth control to everyone makes me think the cost savings don’t really exist. We are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry that employs hundreds or thousands of actuaries, yet they need the HHS to show them that they have been missing an opportunity to save millions of dollars for decades?  If that’s really the case, all of their executives should be fired.

          • SavannahRob

            The findings, published in the March/April 2004 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, show that contraceptive coverage in employer-purchased plans improved dramatically between 1993 and 2002. The proportion of typical plans covering the full range of reversible contraceptive methods tripled from 28% to 86%, and the proportion covering no method at all plummeted from 28% to 2%. 
            The figures may have changed since then. There was no mandate in 2002, so perhaps- in the absence of some mysterious factor (probably an older, religious and sometimes celibate factor)- insurance companies do prefer to cover contraceptives. Probably for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

          • bcwatkins

            I have to ask if you read the entire article that you link to. It draws a pretty clear link between state mandates for contraceptive coverage and increased coverage by insurance companies. 

            The new study also demonstrates that plans in states with contraceptive coverage mandates have significantly more extensive coverage than do plans designed specifically to provide coverage in states without such mandates….

            The drive to enact state laws requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees has been a key strategy in a decade-long, multipronged advocacy campaign to increase private-sector coverage overall (see related story, page 6). The AGI study demonstrates that these state mandates, 15 of which were in effect at the beginning of the study, have had a dramatic impact….

            …In fact, plans designed specifically to provide coverage in states without mandates (excluding those nationally determined plans) did have significantly less-extensive coverage in 2002. For example, fewer than half of the PPOs designed specifically in states without mandates covered all of the leading contraceptive methods (see chart below); more than one in 10 such PPOs had no contraceptive coverage at all. 

            So in the absence of a mandate, insurance companies often choose not to provide universal contraceptive coverage. Thank you for providing further evidence for my assumption.

          • SavannahRob

            Fair enough, mandates can explain much of the improvement.  I’d still consider antiquated attitudes and religious conservatism to be as likely as cost in explaining their decisions not to include contraception, though. Until very recently, health insurance companies haven’t given much thought to proactive cost reduction.
            Also, I’d be interested to see a study on a state that removed the mandate for whatever reason. My hunch is that mandates help overcome stigmatization (of contraception here, but it can also be race, gender, religion, etc), and afterward Americans are freer to employ actual market pressure to get the services they want.
            Still. Even if there is a cost increase (I remain doubtful), it does not bother me for the government to force employers to pay the $1.50/month or whatever it works out to be. It’s not an Enzo, but it does give Americans more freedom over their health, careers, and family life. It will probably come out of employees salary anyway, but the overall cost is reduced for the people who need it- i.e., most of us at some phase of life.

          • Thomasy

            So you favor reducing everyone’s salary so that some select group will benefit–“most of us at some phase of life”, conspicuously excepting gays and lesbians, the biologically infertile, and those with religious scruples objecting to these products.  Why, again, do we need a mandate requiring this transfer?  Is there some evidence that the groups I identified are particularly unworthy, so that they should bear the burden of this policy?

          • Michael Ejercito

            We should not mandate coverage at all.

            employers should have absolute freedom to decide what compensation to offer.

            employees should have absolute freedom on wjhether or not to accept an offer for employment from employers on whatever reason they see fit, including contraceptive coverage.

            Freedom, what a concept.

          • SavannahRob

            Fair enough, mandates can explain much of the improvement.  I’d still consider antiquated attitudes and religious conservatism to be as likely as cost in explaining their decisions not to include contraception, though. Until very recently, health insurance companies haven’t given much thought to proactive cost reduction.

            Also, I’d be interested to see a study on a state that removed the mandate for whatever reason. My hunch is that mandates help overcome stigmatization (of contraception here, but it can also be race, gender, religion, etc), and afterward Americans are freer to employ actual market pressure to get the services they want.

            Still. Even if there is a cost increase (I remain doubtful), it does not bother me for the government to force employers to pay the $1.50/month or whatever it works out to be. It’s not an Enzo, but it does give Americans more freedom over their health, careers, and family life. It will probably come out of employees salary anyway, but the overall cost is reduced for the people who need it- i.e., most of us at some phase of life.

          • Michael Ejercito

            Then there should be no need for mandates at all.

          •  Hmm.  About eight seconds with Google suggests that virtually all insurance plans offer free vasectomies.  Ten seconds with Google suggests there’s approximately zero objection to this.  Approximately two seconds of thinking suggests that it’s probably actuarially cost effective to provide a $500 contraceptive procedure to men in order to avoid the $10,000+ cost of each subsequent healthy, uncomplicated, term pregnancy.  (Let’s not even consider the cost of less-than-healthy, complicated, or pre-term pregnancies.)

            So… I’m skeptical about your skepticism that there’s no possibility of cost savings, or your implication that financially adverse insurance underwriting decisions can be influenced by government mandate but not social or religious pressure.

            And I remain skeptical about so many people’s motivation for objecting to contraception for women “on principle” while pretty much completely disregarding the functionally equivalent but permanent contraception for men.


          • Genuine informational question: are Catholic employers required to provide coverage for vasectomies, in the way that they are now required to provide coverage for contraception?

          • Hi Matt, yes, even though the stir appears to be raised entirely in terms of contraception for women, the HHS requirement includes vasectomies and, assuming they become available, other contraceptives for men.

            And while Catholics generally don’t offer coverage for contraception of any form themselves they seem to be less diligent about coverage for vasectomies.  This could just be because vasectomies a less visible in insurance policies — mention of contraception for women usually appears next to the sections on pregnancy and termination coverage and is thus far more visible.

            I think, though, that this might be asking the question the wrong way.  The rule evidently doesn’t expressly require Catholics to cover birth control.  Instead they require something far more generic and, I’d argue, far less objectionable to actual Libertarians.

            While I’m not going to take too long to track down the original sources the exact wording of the requirement, the one that’s got the Bishops, Republicans, and Kevin’s panties in a twist, is worded exactly as follows (lawyerly capitalization theirs, not mine.)

            “Employee Health Plan[s] SHOULD cover ALL LEGAL MEDICATION prescribed by
            doctors and cover ALL LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURES prescribed by doctors.”

            I’m not sure how Kevin finds that upsetting. Or, why he finds it only upsetting when applied to contraception since it obviously imposes equally “authoritarian” mandates on Christian Scientist employers, employers who are of vegetarian and vegan religions and, of course, employers who belong to the Aryan Nations church.

            So.  To repeat.  While I think plenty of gender neutral Libertarian cases can be made that the government should mandate no health coverage period at all It’s just not particularly Libertarian for the government to lard up very generic mandates with the kinds of specific enumerations of exceptions Kevin, the Bishops (but not most other Catholics) and ‘wingers are lobbying for.


          • Thomasy

            Oh, come on, if we’re going that far, then why limit it to legal medications, or prescriptions by doctors? Surely no libertarian needs to accept the idea of limits on medications, or the licensing of doctors.  

          • Thomasy

            Yes, most plans cover all kinds of contraception. It’s a religious minority that objects to this, not everyone.  This isn’t difficult.  The fact that people are reluctant to conscript a religious minority to further what the majority believes is a good thing, not a bad thing.  

    • j r

      What if Company X made a commitment to environmental sustainability and in doing so offered to reimburse public transportation or biking expenses.  It does not offer anything for those who drive.  Is this an appropriate arrangement or should the drivers look to the government to correct this inappropriate attempt to direct the employee’s compensation?

    • Thomasy

      Under the rule, contraception would be free, while child birth would require payment of deductibles and copayments.  Surely if an employer is providing one at no cost, it should provide both.  Otherwise the employer is implicitly directing the employee’s use of compensation.  So, as I understand your proffered principle, if there are any deductibles or copayments on any potential medicare care that an individual might reasonably choose, then the employer has inappropriately directed the employee’s use of their compensation.  As absurd as that principle might seem, it would make clear that health insurance is compensation for a job performed; in that case, perhaps the only compensation.  

    • Michael Ejercito

      An employer should not be able to direct an employee’s use of their compensation.

      If they were not required to provide the compensation in the first place, I would asgree with that.

      But the government is requiring that the compensation be offered. It restricts choice.

  • Kevin, I’m inclined to agree with you because of 3 main points:
    1. Especially when X is cheap and readily available? 
    2. And when A can choose another employer? 
    3. And when A’s government could provide X directly without using force against a voluntary association?

    Without those conditions I would say that liberals might support this policy. If it’s true that religious freedom has lexical priority in Rawls, it is also true that lexical priority does not mean we cannot sacrifice liberty on the altar of policies which “enable the development and the exercise of moral power”. As far as they consider contraception as enabling the development and the exercise of moral power. That’s why I don’t like Rawls that much, there’s always a way to ignore lexical priorities…

  • “The result is that the RCC still lacks the right to decline funding activities they deem sinful.”

    Often what is labeled “sinful” by a religious power structure, whether it’s that of the RCC or any other religion, is simply what compromises the organization’s structural integrity, i.e., what threatens the status quo.

  • Very inspiring, Kevin.  But why not just say that as a libertarian you oppose any government mandate, period.  Why single out women and birth control?  I mean, brace yourself champ but since day one the Affordable Care Act also mandates that Christian  Scientist employers pay for insurance covering their employee’s penicillin and insulin.  Same with requiring Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Jainist employers to pay for insurance that covers the use of pig and cow tissue for their employee’s heart valve replacements.  And back where I come from there are a surprising number of employers who in very morally consistent (though I would argue also bitterly racist) reasons would much rather not pay for insurance that permits transfusion of blood or transplantation of tissue from white people to people of color or vice versa.  In each case your three principles are no less (if also no more) valid.  Somehow, though, you’ve never preached word one about that and yet your pulpit overfloweth with anti-authoritarian outrage the minute the administration takes a step to prevent discrimination against not just any person who wants and/or needs employer-insurance-provided insulin, or a transfusion, or a heart valve, but only women who seek contraception.

    And hey Kevin!  Guess what?  In a far, far more direct “authoritarian” power grab the administration may start requiring Catholic hospitals to begin saving women’s lives when they show up with an ecotopic pregnancy rather than waiting for her fallopian tube to hemorrhage.  The horror!  Worse, the jack-booted thugs may sanction Catholic-owned emergency rooms that knowingly admit women with ectopic pregnancies where they will receive no care rather than redirecting them to non-Catholic-owned emergency rooms where they would receive conventional medical care.  We eagerly await your next exciting installment about how liberals should celebrate rather than deplore religiously-motivated use of subterfuge to jeopardize women’s reproductive health and sometimes their lives.

    Now I could see an honest, conscientious Libertarian making an entirely principled case that any and all insurance mandates are authoritarian and power-grabby.  And there are some excellent Libertarian arguments against the government even encouraging employers to provide insurance through the use of tax expenditures and regulatory incentives.  And I can even see someone standing athwart public opinion and shouting stop when the government so much as threatens (by force, ammirite?) to hand out a Kleenex to a kid with a runny nose. 

    But I can’t think of a single reason other than partisanship, hypocrisy, misogyny, religious fervor, or duplicity for waiting for the specific issue of contraception for women to come up and then drawing such a rhetorically shrill line in the sand.  I certainly can’t think of a single credible Libertarian reason for drawing such a bright line on this point and nowhere else.

    How about you either broaden your argument (the right thing to do, incidentally, if you want to make this argument at all) or else put a sock in it?


    • Figleaf,
      I think you just ignored two main things:
      1. The topic: why liberals should oppose the contraception mandate (Kevin isn’t talking about libertarians and I guess that he, as a libertarian, may oppose any government mandate).
      2. The 3 important pre-conditions to oppose the contraception mandate
      a. Especially when X is cheap and readily available? b. And when A can choose another employer? c. And when A’s government could provide X directly without using force against a voluntary association?

      • Damien S.

        ‘liberal’ is often used on this blog in a sense that means ‘libertarian’, classical liberal and all. 

        I’m in the camp that sees no real difference between paying an employee who might go buy birth control and buying insurance which might be invoked to obtain birth control.

        • I’m pretty sure Kevin is using the term “liberal” here in the broad sense that includes classical liberals and modern “welfare state” or social democratic liberals. So Carlo is right, he’s trying to make an argument here on broader grounds than libertarian principles.

        • Thomasy

          Which is to say you don’t share the religious scruples at issue here.  So?  I enjoy bacon cheeseburgers, but some people have different beliefs. 

      •  Hi Carlo,

        I object only to Kevin’s limiting his objections (or objections by proxy if he’s not a liberal) to the case of mandated contraception for women on religious principles but not, seemingly, on any other grounds.

        Items 1-3 are either relevant to all religious objections, no matter how objectively “unreasonable” or else they’re not.

        I’ll back off as soon as he issues a similarly impassioned screed calling on liberals to oppose the use of “government force” to add folic acid to enriched white flour.

        I expect he won’t issue such a screed because such an argument would seem unreasonable and possibly silly to all but the most doctrinaire non-BHL.  But the principle is identical.  Or would be if principle was the real motivation for teeing off only when contraceptive benefits for women are at issue.


        • Thomasy

          Wasn’t the principle you insist on the one that was actually embodied in Congressional legislation aimed at overturning the Obama mandate?  It’s supposed to be such a hard pill for opponents of the mandate to swallow and yet even the politicians, who are generally dumb as dirt, were able to see that it’s not a poison pill.  

    • I would add that insurance covers possible medical care, it does not mandate the consumption of that medical care.  My insurance covers a wide variety of things that I hope I will never need. 

      The ‘mandate’ is just saying that, if you are going to cover ‘preventive care’ then then insurance needs to cover all care of that sort.  It is then up to the consumer of that insurance whether or not to take advantage of that policy.  My insurance covers yearly check-ups, for instance.  That’s not a mandate that I get a yearly check-up, but IF I choose to do that, my insurance is obliged to cover it.

      Just like a Catholic Hospital doesn’t get to tell their employees that they can’t buy condoms or IUDs with their salary, they don’t get to tell them which insurance services they can take advantage of.  By allowing them to pick and choose what insurance covers, they are limiting their employees choices in a way that strikes me as profoundly unfair.

      • Bryan C. Winter

        I’m not sure I see how its unfair. You can purchase supplemental coverage with your own money, or choose another employer, or any number of things. What is profoundly unfair is mandating how an individuals money or benefits may be spent. An employment contract is a willing contract. Employers offer coverage of certain types. You decide which kind of coverage you want.

        Personally, as far as health care, I’m not as risk adverse as most people. I’m interested in insurance only as a way to abridge unpredictable costs that I cannot financially bear. So a high deductible, no frills, no add on plan is what I want to keep my predictable costs low. I have enough disposable income (not because i am rich, but because I am frugal) , that I can ‘self-insure’ most things I need and statistically come out better off than through an insurance plan.

        I need insurance if I get hit by a bus or catch cancer. Other than that I have zero interest in an insurance program, and would love to pay all my services cash. Then I can argue with people when they try to overcharge me and I have control over my dollar. Controlling your own money as opposed to putting in a pool strengthens the consumer in a capitalist negotiation. Other people should have that option.

        Birth Control is relatively cheap, and readily available in the marketplace. It would be far cheaper if insurance didn’t cover it (since pharma-companies would need to compete to get the price down to consumers). So are abortions for that matter. I’m all for this.

        The catholic church not wanting to buy it doesn’t deprive anyone of access to it. But I think they do have a right to decide what they do with their money. Religious Liberty is being overwritten (even if you think their liberty is employed stupidly), and as a moral principle it’s higher. The economic argument is just icing on the cake, but I see it as a moral issue of forcing people to do things against their wishes … the fundamental issue with Obamacare over all.

      • Michael Ejercito

        The ‘mandate’ is just saying that, if you are going to cover
        ‘preventive care’ then then insurance needs to cover all care of that

        It goes further than that.

        It says that you must cover preventative care, period.

    • Spike Regales

      awesome figleaf!

      What I found particularly deceitful in Kevin’s screed is his encapsulation  of all the institutions run by religious organizations as one simple “religious organizations,” without distinguishing between churches (which are exempt from the mandate) and those secular institutions (hospitals, etc.) that are run by religious organizations but not specifically for religious purposes. If Kevin would look to SCOTUS case law, he would see that the state is not forcing all (or really any) religious organizations to compy with a law that goes against their religious beliefs, since, in the eyes of the law, those institutions that are providing mostly, or really only, secular purposes are not protected in the same way by the First Amendment as are those institutions that are purely religious in nature. Even the most recent case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,  made the distinction that the state couldn’t interfere in the employer/employee decisions of a religious institution if the employer had specific religious duties. The point is that the employee of a religious institution can be discriminated against ONLY if the employee falls within the ‘ministerial exception.’ And last I checked the vast majority of employees of religious hospitals, etc., are not performing religious duties and as such they are protected by all state & federal anti-discrimination laws. The religious institutions that run these purely secular may be religious but they are not capable of legally discriminating against women.

      And as figleaf and others have rightly pointed out, the fact that so many persons, such as Kevin, find this so immediately and vigorously objectionable speaks more to a greater acceptable misogyny in our society than it does to a sudden desire to protect religious organizations. So many men seem to be so comfortable telling women when and how to have sex and then also want to control their choices after sex. Kevin & others should check themselves and see the hatred of women that their words imply.

      • djw

        ” his encapsulation  of all the institutions run by religious
        organizations as one simple “religious organizations,” without
        distinguishing between churches (which are exempt from the mandate) and
        those secular institutions (hospitals, etc.) that are run by religious
        organizations but not specifically for religious purposes.”

        This seems to me to be a very important point. I can see why a strict libertarian wouldn’t see much significance in this distinction, but from a broader liberal perspective, it’s pretty important. I would certainly agree that it would be a flat violation of religious freedom to require the churches themselves to provide contraceptive coverage. But Hospitals, Churches and the like are ‘of the world’–providing services to the broader community, being paid by the public coffers much of the time, and so on. They must abide by many rules Churches are exempt from.

        • Thomasy

          Is it that Catholics can’t have hospitals, or that if Catholics have hospitals, they mustn’t treat non-Catholics, despite their religious motivations to do so?  

          What about schooling? Catholic schools are seen as “sectarian” in law–too religious to receive state monies.  Are they not sectarian enough though if they serve non-Catholics, so that they can properly be thought of as nothing more than another government appendage?   

          It seems the “of the world” line means, in the end, the government decides what it wants, and takes it.  Which doesn’t sound like a principled line. 

          • good_in_theory

            Catholic schools, and all schools, must meet state education standards, regardless of whether or not they object to those standards and whether or not they receive federal or state money.

          • Thomasy

            Private religious schools have the right to teach their religious doctrine without state interference.  States can require Catholic schools to do certain things, but they can’t require them to reject Catholic teaching or to refrain from teaching Catholic doctrine.  

          • good_in_theory

            Yes, they can’t force them to reject Catholic teaching or refrain from teaching doctrine, but they can require them to, as it were, ‘teach the controversy, – that is, teach things which contradict Catholic doctrine.

          • Thomasy

            They can be required to teach about the operation of government (e.g., civics, history), and aren’t and can’t be required to take any particular point of view on that topic.  The more general assertion that they can be required to “teach things which contradict Catholic doctrine” is unsupported. 

          • good_in_theory

            From Runyon v. Mcrary:

            “In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 , the Court stressed the limited scope of Pierce, pointing out that it lent “no support to the contention that parents may replace state educational requirements with their own idiosyncratic views of what knowledge a child needs to be a productive and happy member of society” but rather “held simply that while a State may posit [educational] standards, it may not pre-empt the educational process by requiring children to attend public schools.”

            Facts are stubborn things.

          • Thomasy

            Facts are stubborn things.   The fact is, you are citing a case about whether private non-religious schools can discriminate based on race.   Even wrenching the discussion out of context as you do doesn’t get you there, because in the very next paragraph the opinion says “Nor do these cases involves a challenge to the subject matter which is taught at any private school.” There are cases on how much curricular control the state can exercise, this isn’t one, and when you locate them, you will see that I am right and you are wrong. 

          • djw

            “Is it that Catholics can’t have hospitals, or that if Catholics have hospitals, they mustn’t treat non-Catholics, despite their religious motivations to do so?”  

            Neither. As good_in_theory points out with respect to schools, they must conform with the states’s standards for accreditation when they offer public schools, whereas they are free to teach the world is 6000 years old to their heart’s content in Sunday School. Institutions affiliated with Catholic obviously routinely accepts this general principle routinely. 
            “It seems the “of the world” line means, in the end, the government decides what it wants, and takes it.  Which doesn’t sound like a principled line. “Well, OK, but we live in a world where the state regulates stuff like health insurance and education. If this is simply a straight libertarian argument that the state simply shouldn’t be doing this at all, that’s one thing. I thought this discussion was more narrowly tailored.To put it a slightly different way, I’m approaching this from the perspective of religious exemptions to general law. I accept they are sometimes necessary to protect freedom of religion, but there is also a cost (in terms of the erosion of the rule of law, equality before the law) to such exemptions, and as such they should be as narrowly construed as possible while protecting freedom of religion. I definitely don’t think “we should grant exemptions broadly when the law is mistaken” is a particularly fruitful way to approach the question.

          • Thomasy

            With respect to education, this just isn’t true.  In the US, private religious schools remain free to educate according to church doctrine.  It is interesting that your defense of the status quo is not that at all, but a proposal for a radical revolution in favor of state power in the guise of protecting the status quo.  

            Religious liberty is protected, in the US, by foundational constitutional law.   Everyone has an equal right to that protection.  A suggestion that that constitutional protection should be “construed as narrowly as possible” because of the need to protect the rule of law boggles the mind.  

    • Thomasy

      When you say “since day one” you mean since the regulation under discussion was passed, right?  Because there’s no other requirement at issue.  

      We have a long history in which employers have retained discretion to choose and design insurance plans.  The only variation in design is the one Kevin is discussing.  It’s almost as if these other groups don’t in fact have the concerns you suggest they have.  It’s almost as if Kevin is dealing with the actual controversy, not an imagined one.  

      But you are right that it is authoritarian for the government to appropriate hospitals built and owned and operated by Catholics for generations to be something else.  If the government wants to buy them, it can at least have the decency to use the fifth amendment and pay compensation.  And if the government think that healthcare consistent with Catholic principles should be outlawed, it should outlaw it directly.   Your authoritarianism doesn’t have the courage of its convictions.  

      • good_in_theory

        I’m not sure what your point is.  The ACA places many standards on any plan that can count as satisfying the individual mandate for health insurance.

        Since it was passed, many things that were previously called ‘health insurance’ now no longer count as health insurance (I should know, my “health insurance” is one of those things.)

        • Thomasy

          It is only the mandate at issue that determines the procedures/medications required to be included.  The other pieces in effect covered actuarial value and eligibility, neither of which implicate religious liberty claims in any obvious way.   

          • good_in_theory

            Unless they are employers of a certain size, Catholics do not have to make it their business to purchase or run health insurance which is ACA compliant.

            And even if they are employers of a certain size, no Catholic is forced to exercise the option to use contraception.

          • Thomasy

            It’s not clear to me why you think any of this is relevant.  Yes, only some employers are covered; so long as they run very small businesses their religious liberty will not be violated.   And, no, the religious liberty violation does not consist of a mandate that Catholics, or anyone else, actually use contraception.  So what? 

          • good_in_theory

            Actually, the ‘so what’ question is why Catholics care about people’s decisions to use contraception beyond their own personal choices.

            Please illuminate the relevant difference for me:

            Catholic pays for the mandatory employer contribution to healthcare, which is used to finance a health insurance plan, by which some people acquire contraception.

            Catholic pays their mandatory taxes, which is used to subsidize the purchase of health care by the poor, who use their health insurance to acquire contraception.

  • IllyC

    Thank you Figleaf, thank you, thank you, thank you. This needs to be said over at Steven Landburg’s site, too.  Thank you for putting it so well.  My mind hurts from trying to figure out why this doesn’t occur to the authors.

  • Jessica Flanigan

    I agree with the some of the above comments. Why now? Why this? I think this whole thing just illustrates how crazy it is that Obamacare puts the burden of providing healthcare on employers. I think it violates liberty of contract and if the government wants everyone to have health insurance this is probably the worst way to go about it. 

    Still, the government requires me to do all sorts of things with my money that I don’t like, like funding pointless and wrong wars. The government also requires employers to do all sorts of stuff they don’t want to do, like all the stuff that IJ fights or all the other requirements that employers provide all other health insurance services, workman’s comp, pay into social security, pay unemployment and disability insurance, and so on. 

    If anything, the case for requiring that they provide birth control might be more justified because the policy disproportionately disadvantages female employees, so if you think that discrimination is wrong (I don’t always, but a lot of liberals, who you are addressing do) then you might think that it’s reasonable to require that employee provided coverage not disproportionately disadvantage one particular group. 

    Healthcare is a mess, and you’re totally right that the government shouldn’t force employers to provide it, or anything for that matter. But there’s nothing special about birth control that makes it uniquely unjust that the government requires its provision, because (contrary to the position of the church) it’s not wrong to use birth control. That members of the church disagree is kinda irrelevant here, just as ::if:: it is permissible to tax it is irrelevant that some people think taxes are always impermissible.

    • “Healthcare is a mess, and you’re totally right that the government shouldn’t force employers to provide it, or anything for that matter.”

      Agreed that gov’t should not over-burden employers whenever possible, but employers (not employees) are exactly where responsibility for the bulk of taxation/regulation should fall, especially if the employer is incorporated and benefiting from the enormously underestimated government-granted privileges of limited liability and eternal life.

      But even for unincorporated employers, and even in the simple case of hiring a nanny, the mere act of controlling the labor of another human being is what gives rise to federal jurisdiction over the employer under the Sixteenth Amendment. Quite an amazing and unique legal principle!

    • Damien S.

      “how crazy it is that Obamacare puts the burden of providing healthcare on employers”

      Uh, ACA (“Obamacare”, actually written by Congress) does no such thing.  Employers providing health insurance to employees is a long-standing American tradition.  ACA mandates that individuals have insurance (and that they *can* get insurance) and encourages employers to provide it but it’s not creating some new employer burden out of thin air.

      (And the employers at one point wanted it this way.  Back in the day, unions suggested regional pension and insurance plans, and big companies like Detroit wanted to do it themselves instead.  Less labor mobility that way.  Now they’re stuck with their own demographic crises of lots of retirees and rising health care costs…)

      • Exactly. The ACA just protects consumers of health care from the power that we have granted to employers over health care. What we *should* do is fix the tax incentives so that employees just get more wages and buy their coverage individually. That way, religious employers will have nothing to bitch about and employees will no longer be at their employer’s mercy with regard to health care.

        • Damien S.

          I don’t think we should do that at all.  The individual health insurance market is broken[1]; fixing it is the main point of ACA, which doesn’t have much affect on people who already had good group plans.  In your other comment you say it constrains consumer choice, but group plans are a premium product, far more favorable to the average consumer.

          [1] Kenneth Arrow of public choice and voting theory fame argued that health care in general was an intrinsically broken market.

          • “Kenneth Arrow of public choice and voting theory fame argued that health care in general was an intrinsically broken market.”

            I think this is a crucial point. Free-marketeers want to pretend like all markets basically work the same way, so what you say about one, you can say about all. For example, the (pretty much anyway) unrestrained free market in game systems has resulted in incredible leaps in technology while pushing prices lower. If health care worked the same way, heart transplants would cost a few hundred bucks, right?

            So what’s the difference? Quite simply, the ability to say “no”. A game system isn’t a necessity of life, so as a consumer, you have full control over if and when you make a purchase.

            Contrast that with a couple of fairly recent episodes my family has gone through. A couple of years ago my daughter, who was five y.o. at the time, was learning how to ride her bike, momentarily rode out of my wife’s vision, and then got run over by a car. Not hit, but run over and drug down the street. (She’s fine. No permanent injuries other than a scar on her hip. One tough little shit.) So she was ambulanced to the local hospital, then air ambulance to a regional med center. It wasn’t until a couple months later that we find out the air ambulance alone was $10k. So tell me, at what point were we, as medical consumers, supposed to exercise choice? “Oh, no. That’s too expensive. Let her die.”  Seriously?

            Then, last fall, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery, chemo… the whole grisly nine yards. (Again, the prognosis is good, but it’s finger-crossing time. Thanks for asking.) Fortunately, she’s covered on my employer’s group plan, but the bills were well into six figures, and we may still end up filing BK (deductibles, copay, and her missing work). Again… at what point were we supposed to exercise consumer choice? “Well, she’s been a decent wife for 27 years, but that’s awfully pricey. Maybe I should look into a newer model instead.” Because that’s the real living choice. These weren’t totally voluntary consumer decisions. This was life and death and so the demand curve is totally flat.

            By basic economic logic, the only way for the free market to work to lower the cost of healthcare is for consumers to be able to say “no”. For life and death stuff like I described, the only way that’s really going to happen is when the consumer is forced to say “no” because he/she simply doesn’t have the resources. And for services that *can* be postponed, that usually just ends up making things worse down the line, like postponing preventative care or waiting until a little lump is a massive inoperable tumor.

            The moral and economic calculus on this is so much more complicated than “let the market work” that I fail to see how anyone with a moral compass more developed than a sociopath can fail to comprehend it.

          • 3cantuna

            You are right, free marketers are Joseph Stalins/Jeffrey Dahmers in disguise. 

            What does it say about an opposition when their bottom argument is that the other side is made up of sociopaths and, as Prof. Vallier has said,  ‘unreasonable’ persons?  Funny, I recently Wiki’d an article on the use and abuse of psychiatry for state interests during the Brezhnev era Soviet Union.

          • Michael Ejercito

            For example, the (pretty much anyway) unrestrained free market in game
            systems has resulted in incredible leaps in technology while pushing
            prices lower. If health care worked the same way, heart transplants
            would cost a few hundred bucks, right?

            Heart transplants require very skilled labor.

            On the other hands, pharmaceutical prices have gone down, especially after patents expire.

          • Actually, to be clear, I don’t like the insurance model at all. What I think we should do is allow non-profits to give benefits to members (currently illegal under our tax code) and have medical co-ops. Essentially have people subscribe to access to health care rather than betting on whether they get sick.

            Essentially, this would have all of the social benefits of a single payer system, while still retaining the benefits of competitive markets. Best of both worlds.

      • Thomasy

        When you say “encourages” you mean in the way that the government “encourages” me to pay my taxes, right? 

      • good_in_theory

        Actually, there is something of a corporate mandate as part of the individual mandate.  I haven’t figured out all the details, but this gives a good picture:


    • Adam Kamp

      Tax-exemption is also worth considering. Most employers receive a tax deduction–in essence, a government expenditure–for providing health care. To me it seems perfectly just to condition that expenditure on providing certain services. (I recognize this isn’t exactly what the government has proposed, but the employer tax deduction provides a certain level of legitimacy to those government conditions.)

      Of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t pay taxes, which may or may not change the calculus. I’m no fan of the tax exemption for churches anyway, but I’m not sure whether the fact that all of their revenues are tax-free should protect them from the obligations that an employer’s narrower tax deduction also creates.

      • Thomasy

        Note that Obamacare doesn’t provide for loss of a tax exemption for those not providing a compliant plan.  It imposes a penalty.   On your view, that’s what makes the Obama administration’s view unacceptable, right? 

        • Adam Kamp

          Right, that’s what I had in mind.

          • Michael Ejercito

            In my mind, if the government offers tax exemptions or credits to those who choose to offer contraceptive coverage, it would not violate liberty (regardless of whether it would be appropriate public policy, which i do not address in this comment.) There would be no basis for an RFRA claim, because being denied a special tax break is a whole different ball game than being threatened with a fine or other penalty. ” There is a basic difference between direct
            state interference
            with a protected activity and state encouragement of
            an alternative activity consonant with legislative policy.” Maher v. Roe, 432 U.S. 464 at 475 (1977) In this context, threats of fines for refusing to provide health coverage constitutes “interference”, while offering a “tax credit or tax deduction constitutes encouragement of alternate activity”.

        • adrianratnapala

          Whereas if you don’t offer health insurance at all, then all you lose is the tax exemption?

      • adrianratnapala

        I think it is at least constitutional (unless you want to argue that subsidising contraception is generally unconstitutional). But I am not sure it is just.

        There is a tax-break for health care, fine. Now if an employer chooses health care that covers less, she pays less, but she also gets less of a tax break. That sounds just. Whereas saying “to get any tax break at all, you must cover X, Y and Z”. That seems like a cheeky way to wield power.

  • GRattitude

    It is absurd that criticism of a blog post would focus on subjects about which the author has not written.  I would like to write an informative piece on a relatively obscure theory of parenting, but since I have not written about other obscure theories of parenting that might have been recognized decades earlier, I should not attempt to share about my current area of interest and research?  That’s silly.

    • Jessica Flanigan

      Totally fair point, I should clarify this. When I asked ‘why this? why now?’ what I really meant to point out is that I suspect that the contraception thing isn’t about people being forced to pay for things that they find objectionable, but rather that people who push this line often talk as if religious commitments do have a special status, as kevin does above when he says that religious liberty has lexical priority over other legislative aims.

       But 1) why don’t more Catholics like me then object that their tax dollars fund war and the death penalty? Surely insofar as being forced to spend money providing contraception is offensive to religious liberty so too are these policies. I think this shows that it’s not really about freely exercising one’s religion, asking Catholics or the RCC to write a check for something they don’t like doesn’t limit their ability to preach against it and refuse to use it. 2) why is religion special? Why is calling something a ‘religious liberty’ give it special status in these circumstances, relative to all the other people who have serious objections to other kinds of government spending? I don’t think it is. To be clear, I’m not saying that anyone should be forced to provide or subsidize contraception, but if the policy is wrong just because some people don’t want to provide or subsidize contraception then a whole host of other policies are similarly wrong, which seems to go far beyond the ‘liberal commitments’ Kevin is appealing to in his post. 

      •  “I suspect that the contraception thing isn’t about people being forced to pay for things that they find objectionable…”

        Bingo!  It’s causing a fuss because at every level, by both proponents of an exception-free mandate and, like Kevin, those who want to carve out special exceptions for religious people, the framing has been about women’s reproductive health.  Which, for better or worse, an awful lot of people seem to find completely objectionable.

        People, I might add, who (possibly like Kevin) haven’t a single liberal bone in their bodies, as well as people (probably not like Kevin) who haven’t got a libertarian bone in their bodies but who, only for this specific issue as it’s specifically framed.

        I might add that the latter group are and will remain “libertarian” on this issue (for only as long as it suits their rhetorical objectives) but who will, in the next breath, call for f***ing draconian government restrictions on women, or “foreigners,” or non-heterosexual orientations, or freedom of speech and association, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and (if it ever seems convenient to them) freedom from quartering soldiers in times of peace!  As an evidently more bleeding-heart-than-usual libertarian I’m particularly antagonistic to straight-up social-conservative appeals to libertarian principle because it’s those any-port-in-a-storm conservatives who make libertarianism look bad.  Really bad.


      • Thomasy

        If you don’t see the difference, consider the difference between being taxed for a morally objectionable war, and being conscripted into fighting a morally objectionable war.  Do you really think that most would feel they are the same?  We have a 200+ year history of assuming they are different.  Quakers and other pacifists have paid taxes, but have had conscientious objector status with respect to fighting.   Has this been a mistake?  

        • red_anonymous

          That is not the analogy, at all. The analogy to conscription would be forcing priests to have sex…

          • Thomasy

            Er. no.  Not at all.  But it doesn’t surprise that those totalitarians in favor of the policy say that forcing bishops to hand out condoms isn’t objectionable, because they’re not being forced to use them themselves.   Your position is as ignorant as one asserting no problem with requiring Kosher Jewish restaurants to serve pork, because an observant Jew keeping Kosher must only object to eating pork, not serving it.   Why don’t we let people tell us what it is they find objectionable, rather than telling them? 

          • red_anonymous

            Now that is a better analogy (having observant jews serve pork). But it’s not quite it. The perfect analogy would be forcing an observant jewish employer to have a caterer provide lunch that includes pork to his employees who might not be observant. I agree that this has some coercive just like the contraception issue (I never said otherwise). Actually someone pointed out earlier that the same mandate forces hindu, jewish and muslim organizations to provide for heart operations that use cow and pig organs, but all those objecting now didn’t raise a voice about it.

            I still maintain that your conscription analogy is overblown and off the point.Son, I don’t need you qualifying my knowledge of the topic. Who are you anyways to rate others? What are your qualifications other than being loud, repetitive and obnoxious?

          • Thomasy

            There’s no evidence that there are any objecting Hindu, Jewish or Muslim organizations.  Not every religious group has the same scruples.  And there’s no “then”, there’s only “now”–there’s not some other mandate which has prescribed the contents of the coverage required.  Finally, “those objecting now” actually include those who proposed and supported a Congressional fix that would have applied to everyone, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and anyone else motivated by conscience (religiously informed or otherwise).  The fix was actually objected to by the mandate’s supporters because of–get this–the breadth you insist is necessary.  

            The conscription is all that this is about.  There’s no shortage of contraception, and no issue of access.  It’s about spite.  

          • Thomasy, do you support a general conscience carve-out? Here’s an example of how that could play out:

            Let’s say the company you work for is bought by someone who believes strongly in alt med, over and above “Western” medicine. You get cancer. Your employer refuses to pay for chemo, saying you need to try homeopathy and crystal chakra alignment instead. You could switch jobs, but now you have a pre-existing condition, so no one covers you and you die for lack of treatment. 

            The ACA fixes those sorts of problems in two ways. One, it requires insurance companies to cover you and two it requires your employer to buy plans that cover actual medicine so that you don’t have to start job hunting just because your boss is an idiot.

            Would it be better if health coverage was bought by individuals instead of employers? Yes, absolutely. Is that the world we live in? No.

            So until that situation changes Catholic priests will just have to endure the terrible Stalinist oppression of somewhat indirectly paying for birth control. Perhaps someday, they will be able to very indirectly pay for birth control (by giving them wages). Why is the psychic trauma of Catholic priests a bigger concern than the health and financial freedom of employees? How are the supposed tears of the baby Jesus the primary liberal concern here? Seriously, WTF?

          • Thomasy

            Kurt, WTF is wrong with you? It’s not about someone’s theology, it’s about their fucking rights.  This isn’t difficult, except for people like you who are so blinded for their bigoted sense of superiority that they can’t even get basic facts right.  How about this:  when you stop being an asshole, we can have a grown-up conversation, if you are capable of it.  

          • Bigoted? What are you even talking about? There are rights violations on both sides here. The rights of employees have equal weight to the rights of Catholic employers and the harm to Catholic employers is so tiny as to be almost immeasurable, while the harm to employees is substantial. You are privileging one person’s rights over another’s. On what grounds do you declare one person more important than the other?

          • Thomasy

            When you describe the harm as “tears of the baby Jesus” rather than, you know, the actual issue, which is the liberty interest of a group of religious dissidents, well, you’re being an asshole, and a bigoted one. 

          • While “tears of the baby Jesus” is a provocative phrase, my point is that the RCC can’t demonstrate an actual harm. The only harm appears to be the violation of conscience itself. In the case of objection to war, there are obvious objective harms (violence, and lots of it).  In the case of the contraception mandate there is no clear harm recognizable by all reasonable people. Thus, the RCC doesn’t have a liberty interest because they first need to establish that significant liberties are being violated. 

            It is not bigotry to insist that an objector claim harms that are understood by people outside of the objecting group. That’s the standard one must have if you’re going to have laws at all.

          • Andrew Patton

            Then you would have approved of the pagan Romans murdering Christians for refusing to offer incense to Caesar, because everybody else was okay with it and couldn’t see any harm in it, but to Christians, it was treason against God.

          • Michael Ejercito

            In the case of the contraception mandate there is no clear harm
            recognizable by all reasonable people. The RCC first needs to establish
            the existence of a liberty interest.

            The harm comes from being faced with fines if they refuse to offer employee health coverage.

          • Michael Ejercito

            The harm comes from the government interfering with the type of compensation the employer offers the employee.

            Employers should be able to offer whatever health coverage (or refuse to offer any health coverage) to their employees.

            Employees should be able to decide whether or not to accept employment from an employer based upon the health coverage being offered.

            Freedom works both ways.

          • Jessica Flanigan

            I think the worry is that people may have bad reasons for finding things objectionable. A lot of people thought that interracial marriage was objectionable, but they weren’t entitled to use the state to prohibit it because they were wrong. Now, I agree that in a lot of cases it will be wrong to impose stuff on people when they disagree, but not because they disagree, but because they antecedently had a right against that policy being imposed. So I think that quakers should have conscientious  objector status because everyone should, becuase the draft is unjust, but not because they are Quakers. 

          • Thomasy

            And if you are wrong about the draft being unjust?  Then is it fine to draft Quakers? Or does that depend on the merits of the particular war?

            One of the reasons the draft is unjust is because it violates the conscience rights of those draft.  To the extent that the draft takes  those rights into account, then it imposes less injustice.  

            I’m not sure what your point is about interracial marriage.  Yes, lots of people thought interracial marriage was wrong.  Some still do.  We shouldn’t write their view into law.  And we also shouldn’t require people to make their individual decisions on marriage without regard to race.   Bob Jones has bad reasons for objecting to interracial marriage.  Nonetheless, we’re not entitled to use the state to prohibit him from acting on his beliefs, even though he’s wrong.

            There are at least two possible reactions to the fact of pluralism:  The first says that, there’s disagreement, someone is wrong, it may be me, we should be careful and create room for dissent and disagreement.  The second says, there’s disagreement, I’m as likely to be right as anyone, maybe more, we should do what I think is best.   As a practical matter, which of these approaches if widely adopted would be more likely to lead to justice?

      • adrianratnapala

        This is reminding me of when some people and others wanted to use land-use regulations to prevent the “mosque at ground zero”. Jessica you are right that the great web of government regulations and subsidies gives government power over all kinds of things it should not have power over.

        Ideally religion would not need a special exemption from that, because we would have other ways to prevent such abuses. But we don’t such ways, so I am glad that there is a special carve-out. And it works the other way too, reproductive rights also get special protection. If a town tried to abuse land-use regulation to prevent a family-planning advice centre from going up, then I am sure the judiciary would find something in the constitution to fix the situation.

    • IllyC

       For someone to perpetuate the idea that birth control should be thought of  apart from the other basic provisions required by insurance mandates  (and laws that apply to care providers) is not at all like writing about a relatively obscure theory of parenting. 

      It is more much more like ignoring something that is obvious to most people.  

      And most people will recognize, rightly, that isolating “birth control for women” out of the rest of the health cared provided by employers is a way of deferring to a tradition that suggests women should not have sex.

  • red_anonymous

    Kevin, you raise good points in the post: namely that coercion is employed to force religious organizations in providing for contraception, and that contraception might be more or less cheap.

    1) But at the same time, those organizations are tax exempt. In other words, my taxes subsidize theirs. And I am morally opposed to subsidizing organizations who don’t offer contraception to women.
    2) Jessica also pointed out that everyone is coerced into paying for war, and yet a lot of us oppose it. But I see few people complaining about it compared to the public display of outrage that this issue has gotten.

    3) You mention that religious organizations aren’t really preventing women from obtaining contraception because women can walk away and find another employer. I’ve always wondered: how come this argument doesn’t apply to people who find taxes coercive. There are states which tax less than others and even countries with very low taxation. How come people who complain about the coercion of taxes don’t move to Texas, or even better Bahrain?

    • Mikestrauss612

      There are some flaws in your objections:

      1)The mandate applies to all companies. Not just tax supported or tax exempt ones. This includes everyone from charities to a local Catholic book shop.
      2)Having your tax dollars spent on something offensive is much different from being mandated to spend your own money on it.

      • good_in_theory

        “2)Having your tax dollars spent on something offensive is much different from being mandated to spend your own money on it.”

        Why?  The government is acting as your proxy here.  I don’t see much of a meaningful difference between you spending money and your proxy spending it.

        But, in fact, under the health care plan, you do not spend your own money on contraception.  A proxy does it for you – the health insurance company and the customer buying contraception.  So even if having a proxy do the spending for you is *less* distasteful than doing it yourself, you work through a proxy in both cases.

        What could actually be offensive would be to be forced to buy contraception for oneself.  But no one is forced to do that.

    • Thomasy

      Religious organizations aren’t preventing women from obtaining contraception because contraception is both plentiful and inexpensive.  They needn’t walk away to spend their earnings as they choose. 

  • For the mandate, this is easy: the Obama administration will force religious organizations to use their financial resources to support a practice they find sinful. (Under the new policy, they will coerce health insurance companies associated with religious organizations to do the same.) No other coercion is involved.
    Whoa! Hold on. What do you mean no other coercion is involved? What about the pre-existing coercive tax system that creates overwhelming incentives for employers to provide insurance as an included benefit rather than having employees buy coverage out of their wages? The choices of consumers have been constrained, and now certain religious employers are trying to take advantage of that fact. The ACA prevents this.

    Sure, a better solution would be to sever the link between employers and health care — but the ACA is at least decreasing the net coercive impact of American health care policy.

    • Michael Ejercito

      What about the pre-existing coercive tax system that creates
      overwhelming incentives for employers to provide insurance as an
      included benefit rather than having employees buy coverage out of their

      Unlike a mandate to rpviode health coverage, the tax system does not directly require employers to provide health coverage. Sure,, providing health coverage may attract a wider pool of employee-applicants, allowing them to hrie quality employees much quicker, as well as experiencing reduced turnover, but they are not forced to do so.

  • Guest

    Kevin has his reasons for being particularly upset about this issue, but it is not clear to me what is special about this issue as it looks like Kevin’s argument generalizes to any mandate whatsoever. So group would likely find some procedure that is covered to not be publicly justifiable. For instance, opponents of anti-depression medicine or people who disagree with government nutritional statements, not to mention Christian Scientists or other, more radical views. 

    As for contraception itself, it is not clear to me why women need prescriptions at all for it and why they shouldn’t be able to purchase it on their own (without prescription) as cheaply as people purchase Aspirin or the like. 

    In any case, the whole centralized health care mandate is a problem from the perspective of public justification. The particular objections of the RCC are obscure and based on dubious metaphysical and teleological claims. Even so, Kevin is right to point out that their concerns should be taken seriously. Not because religion is special-its not-but because the liberal project aims at a system as close to full public justification as possible. The fact that the RCC’s claims are pretty absurd on their face only highlights the seriousness of the problem for this kind of centralized mandate. If we take the RCC’s concerns seriously-as we should-a whole host of other views also need to be taken seriously. 

    Given that, I don’t see how a centralized health care system maintained by public money could ever meet the standard of public justification. It does seem that a more decentralized health system with exchanges and retailers taking care of most mundane, clinical needs paid for by private insurance and fees not connected to jobs, with payment vouchers for the poor could allow government to help support the health care needs of the poor and indigent without having the government run the entire program. The bar of public justification would thereby be lowered.   

    • Thomasy

      The RCC claims are conventional claims about religious liberty.  When those became inscrutable among liberals is a mystery to me.  

  • good_in_theory

    “The Obama administration will force religious organizations to use their financial resources to support a practice they find sinful. ”

    Religious organizations are not simply ‘forced to use their financial resources to support a practice they find sinful.’

    Let’s borrow some logic from another side of the renewed attack on women’s rights which is so popular nowadays – legally mandated TVUs. 

    Religious organizations are only forced to do this (support sinful practices) if they elect to offer group based health insurance plans.  (Just as women are forced to get a LMTVU only if they elect to get an abortion.)

    In some states, universities are mandated to provide group based health insurance plans (like Massachusetts, I believe), but Washington D.C. is not such a location.  In Massachusetts, then, religious universities are simply, ‘forced to use their financial resources to support a practice they find sinful,’ but this is only because they are legally required to offer student health insurance plans, and the ‘problem,’ insofar as there is one, is in the mandate on universities, not the regulations which define what counts or does not count as health insurance.  If the religious don’t like it, they can opt out of the university game.

    But in Washington DC, Georgetown need only comply with these regulations if it elects to offer a SHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan).  Now, let’s not get carried away with the parallelism to the LMTVU case – requiring performance of an unnecessary sexually intrusive procedure which violates someone’s bodily integrity is different from requiring provision of coverage which, at worst, violates the integrity of someone’s money  (violating property ownership is not the same as violating someone’s body).  And deciding whether or not to get an abortion is very different from deciding whether or not to offer health insurance.

    Provision of group based health insurance plans are subject to other regulations connected to principles of non-discrimination.

    Provision of health insurance which satisfies the individual mandate of the ACA is subject to a variety of minimum requirements in order to count as qualifying health insurance and thus qualify for certain subsidies and avoid certain tax penalties.

    As such Georgetown, and other religious organizations, have a number of options available to it (just as, conceivably, Sandra Flukes has a number of options available to her, including opting out of Georgetown’s policy and seeking other coverage.)

    1. It can cease offering any form of group based health insurance, thus avoiding any non-discrimination provisions which prevent it from acting on its religiously bigoted preferences re: controlling women’s lives, or being subject to competing with health insurance plans that qualify for the individual mandate.

    2. It can offer a health insurance plan that does not meet the thresholds of eligibility for  the ACA’s individual mandate, but does conform with non-discrimination provisions as required for any group-based health insurance scheme.  

    This will make its insurance plan highly unattractive because it will require that one be either doubly insured with a qualifying plan or that one pay rather significant tax penalties for not having a qualifying plan, but that is simply the consequence of having an individual mandate, period.  All plans with coverage excessively limited relative to the requirements of the mandate face this consequence.

    Religious organizations don’t get preferential exemptions just so they can make their insurance plans competitive on the market post-mandate.

    3. Religious organizations can offer a group based health insurance plan that qualifies for the ACA mandate, thus complying with certain non-discrimination requirements and certain minimum thresholds of coverage.

    Religious organizations do not have the right to have their attempts at establishing group based health coverage in compliance with the ACA’s individual mandate recognized, ‘just because.’  It is not religious discrimination to exclude religious plans because they fail to meet minimum thresholds and are discriminatory.  It is religious favoritism to exempt them from such regulations, which all other providers of insurance are subject to.

    If structuring a plan as they wish requires violating minimum threshold’s of coverage and engaging in discrimination, too bad for them, on liberal grounds.

    The ‘liberal’ grounds for nondiscrimination policy and impartiality in the application of minimum thresholds are clear.  One might call it a variety of ‘justice as fairness,’ not to suggest that I’m qualified to (or interested in) evaluate(ing) whether or not nondiscrimination and equal application of the law are justifiable on Rawlsian grounds (though I’m pretty sure they would be).

  • Dale Miller

    It seems to me that the original argument conflates being forced to engage in a practice that violates your religious beliefs and being forced to subsidize others’ doing so. The first clearly represents a much graver threat to one’s religious liberties than the latter. In fact, I’m not sure that Rawls would see any violation of Catholics’ liberty here. Knowing Mill’s work better, I’m more confident that he wouldn’t. 

    • Thomasy

      There’s no objection in this case to subsidizing the use of contraception.  I have yet to read anyone propose that the federal government can’t or shouldn’t subsidize the use of contraception, or that subsidized insurance programs and health savings plans shouldn’t be permitted to purchase contraception.  This is a case of conscription:  the state is taking a variety of private actors and forcing them to engage in practices inconsistent with their religious beliefs.  And, worse, it’s doing it in this case purely for spite.  

      • Dale Miller

        Well, certainly no one is being coerced into using contraception. I don’t know how else to describe what the Catholic Church is objecting to other than as being coerced into subsidizing the use of contraceptives via being coerced into paying for insurance coverage that would defray its cost. What “practice” do you see anyone being conscripted into other than paying for something?

        • Thomasy

          Absolutely no one is being coerced into using contraception, though I’m not sure why we should be comforted by that.  This refusal to count religious beliefs to the extent we don’t share them is a particularly unhelpful way to approach religious liberty questions.   The religious dissenters here are not complaining about subsidization of contraception; they do not assert their religious liberty is compromised by the government’s spending money to subsidize contraception.  The objection is to being directly involved in the provision.  You may think that there is no difference between the two cases, but this isn’t about your religious views.   The government does think there’s a difference, as do the religious dissenters involved.  

          • Dale Miller

            Yes, as I’ve been saying, they object to being forced to subsidize contraception. They don’t object to someone else’s subsidizing it, and I’ve never suggested that they did, but they object to being coerced into subsidizing it themselves. And my point is that being forced to subsidize a practice that violates your religious principles (or your moral principles, whatever their source) is importantly different between being forced to engage in the practice yourself. The first infringes your liberty much less than the second; in fact, it’s not clear that it infringes it at all. Certainly, as others have pointed out, it doesn’t seem to infringe the religious liberty of Catholics any more than, say, their tax money paying for the death penalty.

            By the way, every taxpayer is effectively forced to subsidize the Catholic Church, inasmuch as we pay higher taxes due to the Church’s being exempt from taxation. If the Church has practices that violate my religious principles, then can I make a parallel argument for why this subsidy is impermissible?

          • Thomasy

            No, they don’t assert that the government’s subsidization of contraception violates their right to free exercise.  They fully concede that their money may be taken from them by force of law and spent on things that they would morally object to.  What they object to is being forced to act themselves qua themselves, and not through government, to subsidize contraception.   To make this easier, because apparently people have a hard time thinking clearly when the subject is contraception, let’s change this to speech.  A majority wants to encourage the use of guns–that is, they want to subsidize it–by educating individuals about the benefits of guns.  There’s no assertion that the government can’t use government funds to print fliers or buy advertising on TV or whatever it might choose–in fact, it’s freely conceded that it can do that without any violation of anyone’s religious liberty interests.  But does that mean, then, that the government can require a religious employer with a religious objection to guns  to speak on behalf of the government?  My answer would be no, you can’t conscript the employer to speak on behalf of the government.  And in the US, that’s the answer we’ve generally come to–government speech is not the same as individual speech, and individuals have rights to refuse to be conscripted into speaking on behalf of the government, even if the government could otherwise take their money and spend it on the same speech.  

            Your view is that this is all a mistake–that if the government can take your money, it can as well take your time, and if it can speak, it can as well make you speak on its behalf.   You assert that those who believe that their right to not have their imprimatur given to beliefs they don’t hold don’t suffer any additional injury with respect to their conscription, which seems obviously false, and at least is inconsistent with the conventional claims of injury recognized in law.  

            Every church, like other non-profit institutions, is exempt from taxation.   Your beliefs are as eligible for that treatment as anyone else’s.  

          • Dale Miller

            If that is indeed what is at issue here, then it seems to load the distinction between taxation and the mandate with more moral weight than it can bear (not that I would expect this point to cut any ice with the people who brought us the doctrine of double effect). And if that is what is at issue, then Obama’s compromise solution seems well designed to meet it. The church’s money may still be going to defray the cost of contraception, but now they won’t be acting qua themselves to provide it.

  • good_in_theory

    Reworked my thoughts on this a bit:

    As others have noted, the initial critique could be expanded to any public mandate of what either businesses, or individuals, or the state spend their money on.If the government mandates all spend money  (i.e. if there is a ‘public mandate) on something, or the availability of something, then all people are liable to be forced to spend money on things they object to, and all those who object to whatever ‘something’ is, in a given instance, are forced to spend money on things they object to (e.g. are coerced, and thus the principle of public justification is violated.)

    There is a public mandate that everyone have health insurance, defined that only such and such counts as health insurance, and such and such must include the option to elect to use contraception.  Ergo, everyone must fund an option to elect contraception.

    The ‘problem,’ insofar as there is one, is with mandatory, directed, spending-requirements in principle, the same old problem for libertarians and their fellow travelers (no one can ever order me how to spend my money!) that is not a problem for anyone else.

    The question, then, for public justification, is should the government mandate that everyone have access to elective use of contraception?  Considering that contraception is one of the largest advances in women’s liberty and sexual equality in all of history, perhaps there are some good reasons available to us here.

    If mandating public spending on specific things requires universal assent according to the principle of public justification, then so much for the principle of public justification, insofar as here in the non-ideal world no line item of publicly mandated spending receives universal assent (how could it, when publicly mandated spending in general, let alone directed to any specific use, is not justifiable to each and all).

    Religious orgs are just grasping for preferential treatment in being exempted from universal contribution to publicly mandated spending, privileges which individuals (religious individuals included) do not receive, regardless of their moral preferences, for all the mandatory forms of public spending funded directly through taxes rather than indirectly through overwrought public-private partnerships.   

    The ‘individual mandate’ – and the ‘corporate mandate’ it contains – are just secondary public mandates concerning the point of payment for the public mandate of universal health insurance coverage, and not the content of health insurance policy itself, which is defined in the prior mandate that all have health insurance, where health insurance is defined so as to at minimum include access to contraception.

    One can elect to join a health insurance program composed of people who do not intend to use contraception, but one cannot design a health insurance program which will not provide for the use of contraception if requested.  If it were so designed, it would not count as health insurance under the public mandate.

    • Kevin Vallier


      I reply here because good_in_theory was thoughtful enough to work out his/her thoughts live in the comments. S/he also draws together perhaps the three most important responses into a single argument that I found elegant. However, I believe s/he is clearly mistaken.

      I. The Dilemma

      As I see it, good_in_theory (GIT) has advanced a dilemma based on three premises. 

      Premise (i): the argument I use to undermine the mandate seems to apply to lots of other cases.

      Premise (ii): if the argument applies to lots of other cases, it seems to be a libertarian, not a liberal standard. 

      Premise (iii) if the argument does not apply to lots of other cases, it seems to be inegalitarian in some objectionable sense, because it gives special treatment to religion. 

      Conclusion: the argument cannot show that liberal should oppose the contraception mandate because the principle used to refute the case for the mandate is illiberal, either because it is libertarian or inegalitarian.

      I accept premise (i) for a limited set of cases that, which means that the principle of public justification will be thoroughly liberal, refuting premise (ii), and that the effect of the standard is to carve out a role for purely moral conscientious objections in the law, refuting premise (iii).

      II. Some Theory

      The principle of public justification is typically combined with the claim that freely reasoning individuals will tend to disagree rather than agree about life’s most important questions. Rawls called this “the fact of reasonable pluralism.” If a liberal society is based on the public justification principle, then that means all coercion must be the subject of an overlapping consensus, namely that the coercion in question is justified to each person. 

      For coercion to be justified, however, it need not be optimal for each person. In other words, coercion is barred only if the citizens in question lack sufficient reason to endorse the coercion. But morally sub-optimal laws can still be publicly justified. Given reasonable pluralism, we cannot reasonably expect for every law to be morally optimal from our own perspective. So we must acknowledge that some morally sub-optimal laws can acquire our allegiance and so the imposition of such laws can still treat us as free and equal. In other words, the laws are liberal.

      For example, consider a dispute about the appropriate size of a safety net. All members of the public regard some safety net as justified, but they disagree about which safety net (of A, B and C) are morally best. We can say, then, that policies A, B and C are in the eligible set and can be selected by a justified decision procedure (like a constitutionally limited majority vote). But consider deeply social democratic policy D. It is probably not in the eligible set because it is defeated by more libertarian members of the public. But an exceedingly meager policy E may be defeated by more social democratic members of the public. But there are policies in the middle, ones that are eligible, but sub-optimal.

      We can therefore distinguish between laws that are (a) defeated, (b) eligible, but morally sub-optimal and (c) morally best.

      The problem with good_in_theory’s argument is that it implicitly assumes that laws are either morally best (from a member of the public’s perspective) or not. That is, they can have status (a) or (c). Only on this view is it reasonable to conclude that all healthcare safety nets are defeated, or any conceivable mandate, as some radical libertarians contend. (Neoclassical liberals contend that many redistributive policies are in the eligible set, including some that provide safety nets. I believe that all healthcare mandates are unjustified because they violate a modest right of liberty of contract, but I think that mandates which violate conscience are more forcefully defeated because coerced members of the public have especially strong defeaters for the coercion involved.

      If I am right, then the standard of public justification is not objectionably libertarian, as it allows that many non-libertarian laws can be publicly justified even to reasonable libertarians. In this way, I avoid the first horn of GIT’s dilemma.

      However, given that the strength of many religious reasons is not based on their content but on the normative force ascribed to them by their possessors, the right of liberty of conscience must be extended to non-religious citizens. That is, persons have a right of moral conscience. In cases where coercion would cause someone to violate her conscience, the coercion is defeated, religious or no. But coercion can be justified in cases where some law is considered morally sub-optimal by members of the public. In this way, I avoid the second horn of GIT’s dilemma.

      III. Back to Practice

      I use this machinery to substantiate a commonsense intuition, namely that some moral concerns rise to the status of defeaters for laws, whereas others simply show the law to be sub-optimal. In the latter case, a liberal polity can demand that citizens simply tough it out. But in the former case, a liberal polity cannot implement the law without injustice. That is why the courts distinguish between conscientious and non-conscientious objections to laws.

      I contend that the contraception mandate is in the former, not the latter category because it forces the RCC to violate their conscience. RCs have conclusive reason to reject the law. That means the law can have no authority for them and so they have no duty to comply with it. To impose the law on them anyway is to coerce them without justification and so to defeat the case for the law. Or so a liberal must contend. The mandate can only be justified if the RCC’s complaints are mere complaints of moral sub-optimality, but they are clearly much stronger than this.

      In contrast, few citizens have defeater reasons for any redistribution, as property rights themselves are the subject of reasonable dispute. The use of coercion to enforce property rights generally must be justified and cannot be justified to social democratic members of the public who regard full libertarian property rights as unconscionable. That said, full social democratic property rights cannot be publicly justified either, as libertarian members of the public regard them as unconscionable. 

      When it comes to property rights, then, neither libertarians nor social democrats get their first choice. Instead, property rights will have, as Jerry Gaus has argued, a classical liberal tilt. Legitimate states can redistribute property in limited, but legitimate and undefeated ways. But many forms of redistribution will be defeated, such as the redistribution of capital goods involved in state socialism. 

      Most relevant for our purposes, forms of redistribution that violate conscience will also be defeated because liberty of conscience is one of the most fundamental rights which persons have reason to endorse. Accordingly, reasons of conscience will typically have defeater power.

      IV. Conclusion

      GIT’s dilemma relies on a failure to distinguish between defeater-strength reasons of conscience (“Here I stand. I can do no other.”) and mere moral complaints (“This law is not fully just.”). The principle of public justification is only libertarian if all moral complaints count as defeaters. However, the mandate can only be justified if reasons of religious of conscience are mere moral complaints. With the distinction in hand, we can see both that the public justification principle is liberal, not libertarian (though libertarian-leaning) and that it does not give special treatment to religion. Premises (ii) and (iii) are false.

      • Kevin Vallier

        Moving to general post. Wait until then to reply.

  • Two points:

    One: Oral contraceptives are used for a lot of medical purposes other than contraception. I knew a girl in high school who had menstrual cramps so bad she had to go to the hospital. B.C. pills are used to control heavy bleeding, bad cramping, endometriosis, ovarian cysts (what Sandra Fluke was testifying about in Congress), etc.

    And even contraception itself isn’t necessarily about “convenience”. My wife’s first pregnancy was difficult toward the end and she was strongly advised not to get pregnant again.

    Denying health coverage for contraception is inherently discriminatory against the real health needs of women that goes far beyond just not wanting to get pregnant for convenience (as if it’s any of the Pope’s damn business in the first place…).

    Two: I’ve never quite understood why religion falls into the same sort of protected classes as race, gender, national origin, etc. It’s the ONLY category which is clearly the result of a CHOICE made by the person. You really don’t HAVE to be a Catholic; you weren’t actually born that way and no one’s holding a gun to your head. Of course, I agree that the State has no business discriminating on that basis, but I don’t quite see why private citizens should be similarly constrained. And I don’t see why it qualifies one for special considerations.

    • Michael Ejercito

      Denying health coverage for contraception is inherently
      discriminatory against the real health needs of women that goes far
      beyond just not wanting to get pregnant for convenience (as if it’s any
      of the Pope’s damn business in the first place…).

      Which is why the government should neither ban or mandate health coverage for contraception.

      Neutrality. What a concept.

  • Downsize DC

    Should EVERYTHING that relates to personal health maintenance and care be insured? Why not mattresses and toothpaste? After all, good sleep and dental hygiene are essential to good health.

    Sheldon Richman had it right:

    • good_in_theory

      If a doctor prescribes mattresses or toothpaste as part of a medical treatment, then the answer is yes.  But they don’t, so they aren’t.  But they do prescribe contraception, so contraception is covered by insurance.  Pretty simple.

      • Michael Ejercito

        Should employers be forced to provide health insurance to their employees?

  • Pingback: Contraception Mandate II: Liberal v Libertarian Approaches | Bleeding Heart Libertarians()

  • Things I’m okay with:  opposition to state coercion.

    Things I’m not okay with:  opposition to state coercion, and then singling out things under that umbrella that disproportionately affect  women as especially bad. I don’t like forcing folks to do things anymore than the next person, but why oh why everything from religious employers covering contraception to /prenatal care/ is under attack as especially bad, I do not know and do not like. At least the former has some grounding in religious liberty, but let’s not pretend that the majority of this issue is genuinely about state coercion, otherwise it would simply be enough to say you oppose that without having to single out convenient culture war issues.

    I just find it too convenient to divorce this discussion from the onslaught of legislation, etc. that has lately been very hostile to women’s healthcare in particular.

    • Michael Ejercito

      What legislation is hostile to women’s health care?

      (And how is women’s health care different from men’s health care. Are women and men not equal?)

  • Pingback: Contraception mandate and liberalism (a.k.a Beating a dead horse) — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen()


    Written by a man who wants men to be free and women to be free to do what men want. This is an old tune no matter the high blown language and rhetoric used to clothe it. My father a drunken bully impregnated my mother because she was not free to use birth control but he was free to rape her.

    • Michael Ejercito

      The mandate requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. Mandates reduce freedom. How can you be against freedom?

  • Teresa Wasilewski

    I love you.

  • Pingback: More on freedom, birth control and employer coercion | Alas, a Blog()

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