So, what is my evidence? After watching some TV news the other day, my wife informed me with great satisfaction that she'd just heard Marco Rubio say that this conflict is not about contraception; it's about religious liberty. (She thinks he's pretty sharp and wants him for President). This sentiment was echoed by Rick Santorum on the campaign trail:
It’s not about contraception. It’s about economic liberty. It’s about freedom of speech. It’s about freedom of religion. It’s about government control of your lives. And it’s got to stop!Hallelujah. For the sake of winning the immediate battle, I'm willing to go with this as a matter of strategy, if it is indeed the winning strategy. But, I assured my wife, the conflict is in fact about contraception, or, as Jonathan Last of The Weekly Standard puts it, "it's about sex. The upheaval of the 1960s was a many-splendored thing, but it produced one permanent orthodoxy for liberalism: an absolute commitment to sexual liberation." It's true. I was there.
Now, I know that every reason the Obama admin and its sycophants put forth to justify the sexual liberation mandate is offered under the guise of essential health care for women, sometimes accompanied by a long list of uses for contraception other than birth control; but those aren't the ones given by Linda Rosenstock, chairwoman of a panel of experts "convened by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which advises the government," and which government in the form of HHS accepted the IOM's recommendations. She says that "prevention of unintended pregnancies is essential for the psychological, emotional and physical health of women." Yes, those little tykes, intended or not, can tucker you out and even drive you crazy, and carrying one to term puts a crimp in your tennis game. In other words, it's about keeping kids out of the picture in order to maintain a woman's viability in the workplace, her freedom from the oppression of motherhood, her figure in a bikini, and her right to a sexual spontaneity formerly reserved to the feral male of the species.
In other other words, it's all a lie. Contraceptive use is rarely about women's health, but always about a woman's right to have sex any time of the day in any room of the house with anyone she wants at any age from adolscence to the onset of menopause, unannoyed by the prospect that a child might issue from it. Children, a natural consequence of sex, are now the womb's illegal aliens, so illegal that they can be legally killed for showing up without notice.
So even though it's all a lie, the mandate's proponents are fearless in their repetition of it. Why? Because most Americans, even most Catholics, agree with them. Even if many are not sure that it's essential health care, they are sure that it's essential, a prerogative not to be interfered with. When some among the conservative pundit class have tried to point out the lie, they get accused of all sorts of things which amount to only one thing: a hatred of women. "You want them to rotate between the kitchen and the bedroom, don't you? You want to take away their contraception. What kind of monster would do that?" Conservatives shrink from this charge of wanting to do away with contraception, so instead they search for what they imagine is a higher ground: "Whatever your position on contraception, you ought to defend the right of people not to be compelled by government to violate the prinicples of their faith. Surely we can all agree on that, since it's in the constitution."
"Well," say the proponents, "one right can't be used to deny another. Women have a fundamental right to contraception. That's in the constitution too."
And then what do we say? We've just been told that one constitutional right cannot run roughshod over another. Well, we could point out that refusing to pay for a woman's contraception is not the same as denying her right to it. But I don't think it will work, because behind the charge is the assumption that contraceptive use is a positive good. And, I repeat, most Americans and most Catholics agree. Therefore, our right to adhere to a dictate of conscience is being misused in this case. There can be no right to protest against a violation of a religious or moral principle when the principle itself is false. If you want to believe that Jesus is the divine second person of the Holy Trinity come down from heaven, fine; no one will try to take away the crutch of your supernatural fantasies because it is not the kind of thing that can be taken away, and there is no state interest in doing so - unless you try to extend its imagined moral precepts into the state's arena where the rights of others are obstructed.
It is simply a fact that most people in the United States do not see a prohibition against contraception as a demonstrably divine command nor even as a very reasonable derivation of any system of moral law. To militate against it is to give offense to the independence and very dignity of womankind, and to all those historically and magnificently heroic efforts to raise her from a condition of servitude. The prohibition is nothing more than an invention of men, an ancient relic and the fossilized remains of a deservedly long-dead, and patriarchal, morality concocted by a gathering of sex-hating celibates.
This is the state of things, and conservatives don't like to talk about it, except for the sort who inhabit certain religious sites. Among the mainstream, they like to talk about religious liberty and the rights of conscience, but they don't like to talk about the abomination that is Griswold v. Connecticut and the miserable moral evil of artificial contraception.
How do I know? Just last night I heard Charles Krauthammer (in the course of complaining about Santorum's getting bogged down in the issue) informing us that the entitlement to contraceptives is long settled precedent of fifty years standing, with nary a wonder whether it should be thus. It just is, now. A few nights earlier I watched Karl Rove (in the course of making the case that Santorum doesn't want to take away your contraception) complaining about the same thing, finding it hard to imagine why anyone would object to a married couple using contraception within "the confines of a loving marriage," with nary a mention of the fact that Griswold's initial concern for the sanctity of the marriage bond doesn't even exist anymore, nor any worry about "loving" couples using each other's contracepted bodies for mutual masturbation. This amounted to a doctrinal claim that Santorum's beliefs are wrong, and thus ended up hurting the man he was trying to defend. And then I saw Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and Roman Catholic, on CNN bragging about holding the line on gay marriage in his state but, when pressed, conceding that he had "no problem with people using contraception." Lastly, there was the man himself, Rick Santorum, protesting to Fox News that he was being falsely charged. He proceeded to prove it by boasting that he had himself - his very own self - voted to fund "it," contraception, that is. You can watch him doing it right here about a minute in. Approximately four minutes in, you can see him boasting again that, yes indeed, he had voted to fund it through Planned Parenthood.
It's in our bloodstream. Conservatism has swallowed the pill. We accept the opposition's premises. A few are willing to make the case that the pill has caused great harm, but no one who matters. None of the candidates are willing to make that case because it's not a winning issue. How can it be when the whole world's against you? In his staunch opposition to gay marriage (unless the people of his state approve it), has Governor Christy ever bothered to ask whether we'd be debating the issue at all absent the nearly universal acceptance of sterile sex? Has Karl Rove's concern for the loving confines of marriage ever wandered outside the box to consider the fact that "less than 5 percent of births in 1960 were to unmarried mothers, compared with roughly 40 percent today"? Have any of them tried to draw a straight line between Griswold and Roe? Between ubiquitous pill use and ramped up rates of adultery and divorce? Have the Catholics Santorum and Christie bothered to point out that most all of this was predicted by Pope Paul in Humanae Vitae, including the possibility of such government coercion as is now under discussion? Of course not. Who wants to be called an extremist? As nearly universal as contraceptive use is, to at least an equal degree is Humanae Vitae universally despised; it is possibly the most reviled document since the latter half of the twentieth century, with many Catholics - theologians and priests among them - first in line to spit on it. Thus does nearly 2,000 years of Christian accord about the intrinsically evil nature of this act go up in smoke.
I see four possible ways this can end:
1. Catholic institutions will capitulate, survive, and lose even the grudging respect some now enjoy for sticking to their principles. (48% of hospitals already do direct sterilizations. Further, no sooner had Obama issued his uncompromising compromise than a nun named Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, fell to her knees before it. It is always striking to see a religious pledged to the practice of sexual virtue so eager to facilitate the lack of it in others.)
2. Catholic institutions will resist the mandate by refusing to insure, pay the fines, lose a lot of employees, and finally disappear.
3. A court, possibly even the Supremes, will find the mandate unconstitutional, letting the institutions off the hook. Back to business as usual.
4. Catholic institutions will resist the mandate and refuse to pay the fines. The officials responsible for making the decision - in some cases possibly bishops - will prove themselves willing to go to jail for their Faith. Kathleen Sebelius, traitor Catholic, will become (and already is) the persecutor of her own clergy, the men charged with shepherding her soul and from whom she receives Holy Communion. Many will wonder, and probably have already, why she has not been excommunicated. To this question I have no answer.
Thus it may be that we will soon find out what the Catholic Church in this country is made of. I suspect not much. As long as the citizens of this country, which include most Christians, believe that they have not only a constitutional but a God-given right to the orgasm of their choice in the manner and at the time of their choosing, this battle cannot be won. I invite them - no, welcome, and plead with them - to prove me wrong.
Addendum: I had thought to say something about the role of the American bishops in all this, but Edward Feser does a thorough job here, offering the suppport they need and the tongue-lashing some deserve:
But it would have been better if the bishops had been equally vigorously upholding Catholic teaching on contraception and subsidiarity over the last several decades, and disciplining Catholics in public life who obstinately promote policies that the Church regards as inherently gravely evil. Had they done so, it is unlikely that this outrage ever would have been perpetrated in the first place.