In June, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The Court said that the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family - devout Christians - are free to run their business according to their religious beliefs. The Greens had objected to paying for certain kinds of contraception in their employee health insurance plan, specifically, four different kinds of contraception that can cause early abortions.
The reaction to the decision was a bit over the top. You would have thought the sky was falling. Planned Parenthood and other abortion activists said the Supreme Court had "protected religious tyranny" and they were "waging a war on women." Women, children and families were "losing access to health care," they cried, as Democrats in Congress promised to right the wrong that the 5-4 ruling had inflicted and restore to women the choice to use birth control.
Whoa. Hold on there. Nobody is taking away anybody's "choice." Read the Court's decision. It's still up to women to use or not use any form of birth control they desire. They still have the "right to privacy" guaranteed to them decades ago. There is no war on women and the sky is not falling. Here's why.
What the High Court said was that federal policy cannot substantially burden religious freedom unless it serves a compelling interest and is the least restrictive means of achieving the goal. In plain English, the justices said that there are clearly alternative ways to ensure that women won't be denied contraceptive coverage that won't trample on anyone's religious liberty rights. The Department of Health and Human Services has already shown that they can make other exemptions and provide other accommodations to achieve the government's goals. The Court based their decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law sponsored by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer, passed almost unanimously in 1993 and signed into law by President Clinton (all friends of Planned Parenthood.)
Let's not forget that never before the Obama administration's implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act did women have free birth control with no co-pays. And it wasn't even Congress or the federal law that gave that to them; it was unelected HHS bureaucrats who defined "preventive services" to include contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
The Supreme Court did not take that away from women; they still have it. Justice Alito in the majority opinion goes out of his way to say that women will still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost-sharing. But for-profit employers like Hobby Lobby, who hold profound religious convictions against them, will not have to pay for them; either the insurer or the government or some other entity will have to fund them.
So why all the hysteria? Two reasons. Number one: fundraising. Planned Parenthood and like-minded activists are turning up the rhetoric on this decision in order to rake in the cash. If they tell women their rights are in jeopardy, even when they're not, and portray themselves as the great protectors of those rights, they will drive up donations for their cause.
Number two is much more significant: this is not about a war on women. This is about a war on religion. This is about demanding that religious people keep their religion in church and never ever share it in the public square.
This is about disrespecting religion and using the coercive power of the government to shut religious people up because they are sending the wrong cultural message. The hysteria and outrage only makes sense if this is understood.
Kathleen M. Gallagher is director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.