February 27 2012

Women Speak Out: ObamaCare Tramples Religious Liberty

Hadley Heath

IWF's Hadley Heath participated in a panel discussion about ObamaCare and religious liberty at the Heritage Foundation.  Here are her remarks:

I come to this discussion from a slightly different angle.  I work for a secular organization, and a women’s organization at that.  We are nonprofit, and nonpartisan. The Independent Women’s Forum is a free-market think tank; we focus on economic policy and do not take a stance on social issues like gay marriage or abortion.  However, we do believe that individual liberties – like religious liberty – are vital to a free and flourishing country, and therefore we strongly oppose the most recent HHS mandate under discussion here today.

Unfortunately, when it comes to this mandate, I fear the two sides may be talking past each other.  The Left wants to make this a women’s health issue.  The Right wants to make this a religious issue.  In truth, this is an American issue.

This is an issue that harkens back to our nation’s history:  Our founders came to the new world to escape tyranny and to live as free people with various, sometimes unpopular views. 

This is also an issue that strikes directly at who we are as a country today:  Do we still stand for Constitutional government, personal choice, and a competitive marketplace of ideas?  Or will we now start to drown out minority voices in an ocean of sound bytes simply because they are considered unpopular or extreme?

Voltaire famously said, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  That’s where non-Catholic and independent-minded Americans should find themselves in this debate.

I have some very dear personal friends who will disagree with me on this issue.  But it’s not because we have different opinions about birth control.  When it comes to birth control, our opinions are probably the same.  We disagree about this mandate because we have different philosophies on the role of government.

The new health law simply expands the role of government too far.  This will be destructive to our Constitutional design for government, for individual choice in the marketplace, and for the marketplace of ideas. 

In other words, at its core, ObamaCare is anti-Constitution, anti-choice, and anti-competition. 

First, the HHS mandate is just one among ObamaCare’s many unconstitutional symptoms.

ObamaCare was designed as a federal, executive-branch power-grab.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services has about 1500 new powers to dictate how the insurance industry will work. 

Even if you are in favor of heavy regulations in health care, consider where these many new HHS mandates are coming from: not from our elected representatives, but from unelected bureaucrats.  This does not fit the Constitutional design for law-making.

Furthermore, a handful of provisions in ObamaCare raise Constitutional questions in their own right:  The individual mandate, the Medicaid expansion, the IPAB – all of these provisions are being challenged in federal court.

And now, five colleges, one TV network, and seven states have filed suits challenging the HHS mandate. 

Not only was the law written with a disregard for the U.S. Constitution, but it was plainly crafted to be anti-choice.

There is no way out of the mandates in ObamaCare.

From the supply side, DHHS mandates what insurers must do – what policies they must or must not sell, and to whom, and for how much, and what will or won’t be covered.

And then from the demand side, we are all swept into the system.  Mandated in.  This leaves no room for moral objection, individual preferences, or personal choice.

Finally, ObamaCare is anti-competition.

Competition in markets of goods and services is what produces innovation.  Through competition, we can see what products are the best, and what other products are inferior. 

But market competition serves this same important goal in the marketplace of ideas.  That’s why religion should never be mandated by government, because an individual’s heart and mind must be persuaded, convicted, or called to faith, not forced.

The Independent Women's Forum has filed an Amicus Brief in the Supreme Court case that makes the following very important point:  To centralize and limit the health care marketplace is necessarily a monopolization of the ideas that govern that market.  These ideas are very personal, and it is our birthright to hold them. 

To centralize the marketplace of ideas is to cut some voices out.  It reduces competition in this most-important market.

You could even go a step further and argue that, in the marketplace of ideas, “religious” ideas are the most personal, most significant ideas we can subscribe to.

Both sides of this debate acknowledge that the official Catholic position against contraception is a religious idea.  But the idea that birth control is morally ok is also a religious idea.  It’s a religious idea when it’s embraced by many Protestants who condone the use of birth control.  It’s a religious idea when it’s embraced by atheists.  After all, atheism is the religion of atheists.

We should all have the freedom to express and debate our views on this topic.  The morality of contraception is an issue  that society should be free to discuss, debate, and explore. 

But the HHS mandate puts an end to that discussion.   It is a mandate.  It is the law coming down on one side of the question and declaring that it is illegitimate—outside of the law—for individuals to hold and act on a dissenting view.   Those who right now feel as though they are “winning” from this mandate—those who want some people forced to provide “free” contraceptive services to others—should recognize the danger of granting government this power.  If government issue a mandate like this, presumably it can mandate the opposite – that contraception cannot be covered by insurance.  Is this the kind of tug-of-war we want?  Wouldn't it be better to allow people to make different choices that reflect their own values, rather than these one-size-fits-all mandates?

In closing, it is worth noting that the government solution—this one-size-fits-all mandate solution—isn't the only options.  The free-market has many, many ways to handle  ideological or religious conflicts.

In a free market health care system, no employer would be required to provide benefits.  Neither would an employer be forbidden from providing certain benefits.  People could associate freely and seek health insurance however they see fit.

You see, the free marketplace is one of the only places where diverse people (who may disagree about everything else) can be productive together.  I can buy ceramics made by Muslims in Turkey even though we don't share a religion or a nationality.  I can buy a ticket to a sports event from a team I want to see lose.  I can buy a movie ticket for a film starring actors who are politically opposite my views.  Or I can chose to do none of those things if I don't feel right about it.

Government solutions force us to make compromises.  This sounds nice in the context of teamwork.  But it's simply not necessary for someone to compromise on his or her sacred religious beliefs when there are other - many other and better - ways for us all to work together without government interference.

Thank you.

 

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