You know who had the best commentary on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case? Comedian Louis C.K. back in 2009.
I assume the comic would take the Planned Parenthood side of the dispute if he were directly asked, but a bit he did on the Conan O’Brien show nonetheless gets to the heart of the matter . Remember it?
Headlined, “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy,” the piece tells of his delight at being able to open his laptop and access the internet on an airplane for the first time (that capacity had just been introduced). Everyone was happily surfing when suddenly the connection cut out and the crew apologized. The man next to him sputtered and cursed, “This is bull—!”
C.K.’s incredulous observation is, “How quickly the world owes him something he only knew existed ten seconds ago!”
Legal questions aside (and for that try our own Matt Bowman , this handy explanation of four common misconceptions about the case, or most importantly, Peter Lawler’s reflection on the decision’s fragility ), that’s the real amazement I have about the indignation against the decision itself and the intensity of contempt being expressed for ordinary American citizens who, not liking abortion, choose not to have one – and not to be in any way involved in one, either.
Employers have long chosen whether or not to cover contraceptives in the health plans they offer. Prior to the abortifacient mandate being proposed in 2011, no one thought there was any war on women – so how can not following a proposal that was never in effect constitute a calamity now? How quickly your fellow citizens owe you something you’d never even thought of previously!
This is a version of an old Washington trick: propose an increase to a budget, and then before a single dollar has been agreed to, accuse anyone who doesn’t want to spend as much as you of “cutting” the budget.
It’s worth reviewing how this pitched battle came about. Regulators at the Dept. of Health & Human Services, cozy with their friends at Planned Parenthood (there is a revolving door for personnel between this Administration and Planned Parenthood), devised a rule to channel money to their allies by deciding that contraceptives should be offered free in most insurance plans.
This was a naked act of cronyism – government regulators allowing interested parties to write the regulations that bind others for their own advantage—and the Supreme Court just intervened to defend the little guy – the citizen owners of “closely held” corporations– from being bullied in that way.
The availability of contraceptives was never in question, and the Court didn’t even rule that contraceptives can’t be offered without co-pay under Obamacare. It just said regulators must find a less intrusive way of doing it.
It seems like the sort of live and let live approach that once marked us Americans – a people once generous in our willingness to accommodate others where possible.
My question for my friends frothing over the ruling is, where is your good will? Hobby Lobby pays its workers high wages – the company minimum wage is $14/ hour – well above the national average. Commitment to paying a “living wage” is as much a part of Hobby Lobby’s Christian commitment as its abhorrence for abortifacient drugs, and the additional money in worker pockets is more than enough for employees to spend on contraceptives if they want them. And for those workers who don’t want contraceptives, the money isn’t wasted on coverage they don’t need, but available for socking away in savings or paying tuition bills. What is unreasonable about that and how does it hurt you?
There’s a deeper point to be made, though, which is that the bonds uniting a people are fragile – particularly so in the United States, which was not founded on ethnicity or religion, but on commitment to the principle of the equal dignity of each human person.
No good and wise government ever deliberately pits one portion of the people against another – or demonizes a portion of the citizenry– if it can be helped. Nor does any wise government ever – except where there is genuine necessity– force its citizens to choose between obeying the law and obeying their consciences, because the nation at large loses that conflict every time.
Faced with a choice between his conscience and the law, a person will do one of two things. Either he will obey his conscience and become alienated from his government; or he might capitulate and obey the law – but in that instance he will still in his heart become cynical about his government and come to think of the law not as a moral teacher, but simply as a lot of red tape. The result will be a nation full of people who don’t respect the law and will break it if they think they can get away with it. That’s the road to a banana republic, not a free nation of self-governing citizens. In the worst case scenario, you get a people supine before genuine evil – and we have examples in living memory of how that turns out.
In its insistence on foisting the HHS mandate on everyone, the Obama administration has put the citizens of this nation through an absolutely unnecessary three year battle with one another. Unnecessary because they could easily have found another way to achieve their ends had they had the common good in view rather than the enrichment of the abortion industry, which has been in decline in the marketplace of ideas.
You don’t have to disapprove of contraception to recognize cronyism and poor statesmanship when you see it.