Throughout the debate over the HHS mandate, the mandate’s supporters have depicted its opponents as alarmists who exaggerate the mandate’s impact. Conveniently overlooking sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, they ask since only Catholics care about contraception, why should Protestants oppose the mandate?
Well, aside from a little issue of religious freedom, recent events in Washington State show us why.
During oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Anthony Kennedy told Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was defending the mandate, that, under Verrilli's view, “a for-profit corporation could be forced to pay for abortions." A surprised Verrilli replied “you're right," and then dismissed the concern saying that there "is no law like that on the books."
Well, there soon may be.
In Washington state, HB 2148 would require health plans to “provide coverage for maternity care or services to provide a covered person with substantially equivalent coverage to permit the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.”
In plain English, if your employer-provided health insurance covers having a child, it must also pay for an abortion.
As Scott Ward and Patrick Purtill of Gammon and Grange wrote in USA Today, while the bill “cites an existing conscience clause in Washington law, it is immediately followed by another clause that seems to nullify it.” Thus, “how the two can be reconciled is unclear.”
“What is clear,” they continue, “is that the federal government believes no for-profit corporation has an enforceable … conscience objection to such a law.” The federal government might reluctantly concede that, say, the Little Sisters of the Poor don’t have to pay for abortions, but lay people–Protestant or Catholic—who are equally committed to the sanctity of human life have no legal leg to stand on.
The perversity of this position can be seen in the case of Electric Mirror, a Washington business owned by the Mischel family. As Ward and Purtill tell readers, the family “never dreamt that they had to separate their faith from their business.” They provided health care coverage to their 200 employees because their faith told them it was the right thing to do—long before it was mandatory.
And that faith includes a respect for human life: One of the Mischel children is the adopted child of a rape victim whose family pressured her to have an abortion.
Now, if the federal government’s position prevails and HB 2148 becomes law, they will have to pay for abortions.
Those of us who’ve been around the pro-life movement for a while recall seeing bumper stickers that read “Don’t like abortion? Then don’t have one.” Now, if the Supreme Court rules against us, we may have to pay for them.
What’s going on in both Washingtons is yet another reminder that the battle for religious freedom is not only not over, but it’s barely begun.
For two hundred years a cultural consensus over the importance of religious freedom safeguarded that freedom. Now, our increasingly post-Christian culture views religious practice as something, to use Ward’s and Purtill’s words, to be, at most, “accommodated,” not safeguarded.
Certainly the lives of unborn babies are reason enough to care about religious freedom. But there’s a more fundamental reason to care, as John Stonestreet shared with me in a recent email exchange.
It’s an issue of stewardship. We are stewards of “the Christian vision of humanity as created and as redeemed,” John wrote. Freedom to love God and live according to His Word is a gift from God to humanity, and like all of God’s good gifts, it is worth preserving.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: May 8, 2014