During oral arguments in March, when trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to let it force Hobby Lobby to comply with its contraceptive mandate, the Obama administration made a striking admission.
Hobby Lobby and its lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty had argued that the government’s position, if accepted, would allow the government to force people to pay for abortions.
The government did not deny the charge. In fact, it admitted that its legal arguments would justify an abortion mandate.
Responding to a question posed by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Obama administration's lawyer answered “you're right” that “under our theory” the government could force payment for all abortions.
With that admission, the high stakes in the Hobby Lobby case grew even clearer. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion for those who choose the procedure.
But, while Roe and its progeny can be fairly criticized for many failures, these cases do not require that people who conscientiously object to being involved be forced by the government to participate, either by assisting in or performing the abortion, referring for abortions, or funding abortions.
That's as it should be if the “pro-choice” mantra is taken at face value. If the so-called “right” to abortion is based on the “freedom of choice,” it would be bizarre to force unwilling people to participate in abortions if they choose not to.
Pushing the court to accept the mandates of Obamacare, the Obama administration’s arguments reveal the truth: Abortion is not about choice, but coercion.
According to the government’s lawyer, profit-making nurses and doctors could have no religious-liberty right not to participate in abortions.
Even religious non-profits can be forced to provide abortions if the legislature decides to make them, because refusing to do so would similarly “extinguish statutorily-guaranteed benefits.”
Those benefits are, the government argues, a legal basis to deny religious exemptions for its so-called “contraceptive” mandate. Employers of all kinds can be forced to pay for abortions for their employees.
The prospect of an abortion mandate is hardly theoretical. A bill passed by the Washington state house would force any employer willing to pay for maternity care and childbirth to also pay for abortion.
A federal judge in Michigan is currently considering a lawsuit that seeks to force Catholic hospitals to refer or provide abortions.
A proposed law in New York would make it illegal “discrimination” to refuse to pay for an employee's elective abortion.
If the Supreme Court embraced the Obama administration's radical proposition, it could spell the end of our conscience clauses on other issues, too, like capital punishment, assisted suicide, and military service.
Why did the government make such an extreme argument to the Supreme Court? Presumably because its claim on the merits—that the only way to distribute so-called emergency "contraceptives" (which the government concedes end the life of an already developing human embryo) is by forcing unwilling employers to provide them—is so weak.
Ultimately, the Obama administration’s aggressive argument in the Hobby Lobby case is part of the same take-no-prisoners approach it took in dragging the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Supreme Court on New Year’s Eve.
In both cases, rather than create a true accommodation for sincere religious objections, the government insisted that it has the power to just ignore those objections.
The last time the Obama administration offered such a cramped view of religious liberty, the court unanimously rejected its position as “extreme” and “untenable.”
The justices should once again reject the coercive agenda of the government and its abortion industry allies.Charmaine Yoest is president and CEO of Americans United for Life.