I had been meaning to get to Douthat’s argument about how requiring employer-provided health care packages to provide coverage for contraceptives is the death knell of civil society or something. Fortunately, I was procrastinating we got some classic long-form Holbo on the subject. There’s no such thing as one key passage — it’s all great — but I’ll arbitrarily highlight this line of argument:
[Corey Robin] digs up fun quotes from old, odd sources.
“In order to keep the state out of the hands of the people,” wrote the French monarchist Louis de Bonald, “it is necessary to keep the family out of the hands of women and children.” (15)
Douthat, being a much kinder, gentler De Bonald, would only apply the principle in small ways, to certain traditional sex roles and social hierarchies. He thinks a semi-subordinate status for women, where reproductive stuff is concerned, seems right. But he wouldn’t want to put it that way, because it sounds bad. There should be some way of making out how really the issue is freedom and community. That is to say, Robin is basically right about the way Douthat thinks and argues.
This is a crucial point. Obviously, neither Douthat nor the religious officials resisting this particular regulation deny that as long as we’re going to have a private insurance system largely provided by employers who receive tax benefits, there has to be extensive regulation ensuring that this insurance is actually worth something to people who get sick. There’s no broader principle of liberty being breached by the Obama administration’s regulation. Reproductive health is an important component of health care and it’s logical that employers be required to provide it if they want the tax advantages that come with providing insurance. (And remember that were talking about religious organizations performing the secular function of employers here; for better or worse, for example, the Supreme Court unanimously held just this month that religious organizations qua religious organizations are exempt from civil rights law.) It’s not a coincidence that the one exemption that is being sought happens to involve the subordination of women, and involves invoking a “principle” so essential to the faith that it has been overwhelmingly rejected by practicing Roman Catholics. Even leaving aside the highly unattractive vision that places “community” above gender equity and liberty, what we’re talking about here is a Potemkin “community” — trying to impose anachronistic, reactionary views on birth control on lay Catholics who by and large don’t believe in them.
Obviously, it’s a very good thing that these feeble arguments failed.