Hooray! The War on Women Is Back
The Supreme Court unleashes a wave of liberal misinformation.
WSJ Editorial, July 2, 2014
Do Democrats seem livelier than usual this week—more spring in their step, maybe, their cheeks rosier, extra gleam in the eye? Verily, the Supreme Court has liberated them to unleash their gender and other identity-politics grievances in an election year.
Democrats claim to be distraught over the Court's Hobby Lobby decision, but really they can barely suppress their glee. Allowing some religious objectors in business to opt out of the contraception mandate lends them a campaign theme that isn't the economy, the Middle East in flames or incompetent governance. No agenda, no problem. Patriarchs and Republicans—if that's not redundant—are coming for your womb, ladies.
Here's White House press secretary Josh Earnest : "President Obama believes that women should make personal health-care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them. . . . The constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office disagrees with that conclusion." This appeal to diploma is weird, because Hobby Lobby turned on the straightforward application of a federal statute. The First Amendment's free-exercise clause wasn't reached.
There's another ex-lawyer who should also know better, given that her husband signed the relevant law "to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties," as Bill Clinton put it in 1993. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) sailed through the House unanimously and the Senate 97-3.
Yet today Hillary Clinton thinks the Clinton family's RFRA legacy is nearly Iranian. Its protections belong to "a disturbing trend that you see in a lot of societies that are very unstable, anti-democratic and frankly prone to extremism," which is "women and girls being deprived of their rights," including "control over their bodies," she said this week.
America's mullahs are also after Democratic Party chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who warned on MSNBC that "Republicans want to do everything they can to have the long hand of government, and now the long hand of business, reach into a woman's body and make health-care decisions for her." Democrats made Hobby Lobby-based fundraising pitches over the weekend, before the decision was even handed down.
One of them featured Sandra Fluke, the middle-aged Georgetown Law coed now enjoying a 16th minute of fame after demanding that Congress give her free birth control in 2012. She worries that "the current reproductive rights environment" even endangers "a woman's ability to pay for her own coverage." What she means is the taxpayer ability to subsidize somebody else's abortion. The Affordable Care Act itself bars the federal exchanges from financing such services, and the bill wouldn't have passed otherwise.
Harry Reid added with his usual subtlety that "it's time that five men on the Supreme Court stop deciding what happens to women." Perhaps the Senate Majority Leader's 1993 vote in favor of RFRA can be retroactively disqualified because he gender self-identifies as a man.
All this crocodile outrage is wonderfully fact-free. The High Court majority granted that women's health is a compelling state interest but that the White House's means were illegal under RFRA. The opinion is largely irrelevant in practice to contraceptive "access," which will remain cheap and abundant. The Institute of Medicine reports that contraceptive benefits are "standard practice for most private insurance" and that 89% of plans cover all 20 FDA-approved methods. Hobby Lobby only disapproves of four methods, and few companies would claim the religious convictions to bar even those.
Democrats also fail to mention that the health plans of about 190 million people were already absolved from the mandate before Monday's ruling, either because they work for exempt businesses with 50 workers or fewer or as a result of the Obama Administration's "accommodation" for religious nonprofits. That arrangement is a creature of bureaucratic discretion, not statute, and thus could be expanded to companies like Hobby Lobby without Congress if Mr. Obama honestly thinks the female body is at risk.
But our guess is that Democrats prefer to campaign on the war-on-women trope through November. Their goal is to scare up flagging election interest among their "coalition of the ascendent" of minorities, young people, single women and affluent cultural liberals.
Yet millions of women also treasure religious liberty, and some might dispute the White House political assumption that all women think alike and want to force all employers regardless of conscience to pay even for their abortifacients. Perhaps the greatest irony is that for all the talk of "bosses" controlling health decisions, the core of ObamaCare is the raw political control of such choices—for all Americans, regardless of their moral beliefs.