The Right to Enslave

(photo: xomiele/flickr

It seems that even some Democrats are beginning to cave on the Obama Administration’s contraceptive policy that requires religious hospitals etc. with secular, non-church member employees to carry health insurance that covers contraceptives. I think we’d better clear up their confusion.

If the government authorizes the denial of contraceptives to the employees of particular institutions, then it’s the government denying that health care, not the institutions. Wavering Democrats and Republicans, too, should stop and think about that. Acting overtly to deny certain health care benefits to a subset of American citizens is immoral. It’s also stupid.

It’s no secret that the Right Wing’s conception of “freedom” is the freedom to maintain authoritarian hierarchies of their own within an otherwise (theoretically) egalitarian democracy. It’s what was behind the South’s segregationist arguments. Lord, it’s what was behind the pro-slavery movement prior to the Civil War. It’s why women were denied the right to vote for more than a century. It’s why the Right opposes gay marriage. It’s why corporations opposed equal employment protection laws, child labor laws.

This leads, of course, to a striking irony: personal freedom is sacrificed on the altar of what’s called personal freedom. But it is really the altar of the right to enslave.

This has nothing to do with religious freedom. At stake is not a church’s right to ask its members to follow particular doctrines. We are talking about employees who do not belong to the church, but simply work for one of its enterprises.

I don’t expect cynical, malicious or confused Republicans to follow this argument. But wavering Democrats, take heed: it won’t be hard to come up with messages that paint you accurately as part of a heavy-handed state that’s all too ready to intrude into the personal lives, health and safety of Americans. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because you are confused or just politically timid. Your incumbency is far less important than the health of American women.

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