After a divided Supreme Court ruled today that Hobby Lobby can’t be forced to buy birth control for its employees, the reactions have been predictable.
Social conservatives are hailing it as a great blow for freedom. Progressive leftists are screaming that this is about bosses controlling access to birth control for their employees. At any moment, I expect to see the chant start somewhere that the five justices on the winning side hate women.
I have trouble working up any enthusiasm about this case. Yes, it’s a good decision in a narrow way for religious freedom, but it’s pretty hollow when seen in context of everything else.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that Americans can be forced to buy things they don’t want to buy for themselves. Think about that. If the government believes you should buy hamburgers from McDonald’s or a subscription to National Geographic or a specified array of sex toys, the court has said it’s fine for government to require that of you and punish you if you don’t comply.
The court has already said that it’s perfectly fine to force employers to buy health care for their employees — plans that the government must approve. Whatever government deems to be necessary, companies can be forced to buy for you, whether you want it or not.
The Hobby Lobby decision only says that if a company’s owners object to birth control on moral grounds, they can’t be forced to purchase that particular coverage.
That’s all this decision does. While it’s right in the very narrow sense, it’s so utterly inconsequential compared to everything else that’s already been mandated that it’s hard to believe it matters.
For the few companies that happen to have owners who believe that birth control is a moral evil, it’s nice for them to be able to exercise their right not to have to spend their money on something they believe is immoral. For the rest of us, though, this doesn’t do a single thing toward restoring the freedoms that have been stripped away from us.
This is going to be painted as a great conservative victory — and progressives are going to use it as a fundraising appeal in order to make the case that there’s a war on women — but it’s mostly symbolic. It’s not a big deal.
You and I can still be punished for not buying what federal bureaucrats decide we ought to buy. The assumption of federal law and court decisions is that our lives are not our own and that government can make up pretty much any rules it wishes about what we have to do with our money.
So this “victory” seems pretty empty to me.
If the Supreme Court had done the right thing and struck down the entire abomination, that would have been something to celebrate. But today’s decision is merely technical nibbling around the edges. The abomination still stands.
Nothing about today’s decision changes the fundamental fact that the Supreme Court has already decided that the government owns us. Today’s decision isn’t a big deal in light of that.