I rarely disagree with Brother Pierce on non-Billy Beane related issues, but I’m afraid that I must demur this time. In addition to what I’ve already said, a couple points. First, I don’t agree with the slippery slope arguments. As of now, employees will be entitled to exactly the same substantive benefits they were last week, and there’s no reason for insurance companies to object because covering contraception actually saves them money. Nor is true that refusing to make these symbolic non-concessions would somehow make it less likely that the policy will be changed for the worse in the future. Precedents created by Obama will mean less than nothing to President Mittens or President Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver. The only way to preserve political gains going forward is to create powerful allies, and to the extent that they matter today’s changes are a net positive: they created new allies among Catholic health care providers without giving up anything, they didn’t create any new opponents, and they politically undermined the remaining opponents, forcing them to fight on political terrain that is extremely inhospitable.
I also don’t understand the argument that “that women’s-health issues have been treated as little more than a bargaining chip by a Democratic president. Again.” Women’s health issues were not just “treated as a bargaining chip”: the policy announced today, in fact, maintains very real gains for women’s health and equity. The Obama administration has made bad decisions on these issues before, but this isn’t one of those times. If the argument is that core progressive values were part of a political negotiation, well, yes. That’s what politics is. The only thing that declaring principles as somehow outside of the dirty, dirty realm of politics accomplishes is to make it less likely that public policy will reflect these values.