The Blog

A Defeat for Obama, Obamacare, and the All-Intrusive State

2:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

This case involved three closely held corporations: Hobby Lobby, the cabinet-maker Conestoga, and — although the mainstream press usually omits this part — Mardel, a Christian bookstore business.  That’s right: the Obama administration tried to force Christian bookstores to provide free abortifacients. (Moreover, it apparently thought it was being restrained. As the Court puts it, “Under HHS’s view, RFRA would permit the Government to require all employers to provide coverage for any medical procedure allowed by law in the jurisdiction in question — for instance, third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide.”)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent spends a fair amount of time defending the Obama administration on policy grounds. After a brief, two-paragraph introduction, she starts the body of her opinion with this line (quoting from Planned Parenthood v. Casey):  “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” (She might have added, at the expense of their employer and the greater expense of their offspring.)

But an interesting aspect of her opinion is her echoing of HHS’s, and Obama’s, view of for-profit entities. For-profits aren’t important and vital contributors to society that provide desired products while often adhering to certain religious or moral codes. Rather, the world is divided into those who do good (the government, the Court, nonprofits) and those who make money (and must be controlled by government). In a part of her opinion that was joined only by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, Ginsburg writes (again, quoting from a prior opinion) that “‘for-profit corporations are different from religious non-profits in that they use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate [the] religious value[s] [shared by a community of believers].’”  In other words, for-profits are just that — for profits.  They are only about making money. 

This points to a wider victory in this case, a victory for the sorts of civil associations and for-profit businesses that are at the heart of American society.  These are the very entities — ranging from small civic groups, to religious charities, to closely held businesses with moral compasses — that Obama and Obamacare are actively in the process of bulldozing.  The Court’s opinion decimates the administration’s distinction between non-profits and closely held businesses while also highlighting the differences between such closely held businesses and the giant corporations that are more often the allies of big government.  It’s telling that the largest company in America — Walmart — is an Obamacare supporter, while the companies that are always trying to fight off the relentless regulatory onslaught of this administration are, at least disproportionately, the little guys. 

The crucial importance of the space between the isolated individual, on the one hand, and big government and its big-business allies, on the other, points to the fact that, while this particular case hinged on a law protecting religious liberty, the bigger issue at stake is liberty itself.  When the Obama administration released its “preventive health care” decrees under Obamacare, I wrote, “Such overt politicizing of medicine is wrong on at least seven levels:

“1. Insurers shouldn’t be mandated by law to have all of their new health plans cover birth-control pills, thereby denying Americans the freedom to select health plans of their own choosing, whether or not those plans cover such pills.

“2. Even if it were justifiable to mandate that insurers only offer plans that cover birth-control pills, such mandates shouldn’t require insurers to provide such pills for free, thereby making everyone else pick up the tab.

“3. Even if it were justifiable to mandate that insurers only offer plans that provide free birth control pills, such plans shouldn’t also be required to cover abortion drugs.

“4. Even if were justifiable to mandate that insurers only offer plans that cover abortion drugs (and free birth-control pills), such mandates shouldn’t require insurers to provide such abortion drugs for free.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers