Update The original post appeared on 26 March 2014. See the second update below for commentary on the Supreme Court decision, which I think is only a small, temporary victory. But do read the original, too. You’d hate to make an argument that’s already been shown to be fallacious, right?
Why should a company be forced to pay for its employees’ contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services just because its employees are employees?
There is no justifiable answer to that question, though I invite you to provide one. There are several popular irrational answers. (If you are going to comment, and you do not answer this question, we will assume your answer is they should not.) Here are the major ones.
(1) The government mandates that they should. It is true that the government mandates that businesses—such as the Little Sisters of the Poor—provide these services, while also forbidding businesses recompense. But this is not an answer to the question because it is circular: the government mandates because the government mandates.
(2) We can’t let businesses control the sex lives of their employees. A non sequitur. The sex lives of employees are their own business, not the business of businesses. Indeed, this answer is backwards. The government is mandating that employers meddle in the sex lives of their employees by providing, at “no cost”, items which make certain sexual activities more desirable and therefore more likely (why worry so much about getting drunk and sleeping with the wrong guy if you know your boss will pay for a morning after pill?). Not giving condoms free is not “meddling” with anybody.
(3) It makes good business sense. Pregnant employees are costly and those raising families are less attentive to their duties. Let this be true: businesses who refuse to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services will experience greater expenses and suffer lower incomes than companies which provide them. But it is not within the purview of government to force private businesses to take specified levels of profit. If a man of business feels he would rather forgo 30 pieces of silver than violate his conscience, that is his call and not the government’s. And then the statement is not true, or at least not always. Employees from stable, traditional families are often observed to be good, stable, and productive employees.
(4) Employees who are given these sexual services are healthier, and healthier employees make for better business. Again, let this be true. But employees should make provisions for their own health. Saying that employers must be responsible for the health of their employees, especially in sexual matters, is circular and absurd (except in special and rare cases where the employment activity is dangerous; and even here it is doubtful, because the employee freely enters into a relationship with his employer). If employers were responsible for the health of employees, the burden on employers would be vast (should employers necessarily monitor the food employees eat?). And again, the statement is not generally true.
(5) The government already mandates employers pay for other services. These are just additions. This is circular: that the government has already forced employers to fund other things is not justification that employers should fund still more. If anything, given the burden employers already face, and which causes them to hire fewer employees rather than more, this argues that employers should pay for fewer services.
(6) If we let employers get away without paying, they might be able to get away without paying others in the future. Slippery slope. Governmental control for the last century has been in one direction: increasing. There is no reason in the world to suppose government will allow any diminution in control.
(7) Letting people not pay because of religious beliefs is a clear violation of Church and State. This assumes what it set out to prove: that all employers must pay. It is therefore circular. And even if it were not, there is no “clear violation.” A man’s right to practice his religion, and not just his right to worship, is ensconced in the Constitution, whereas a woman’s “right” to “birth control” pills is found nowhere in that document. And the religious beliefs in question are not minor nor recent: these are long-standing, foundational moral questions, the very guide of life for many religious people.
(8) Even if individuals can have religious rights, corporations cannot. The government can force the mandate on corporations. First, the government is forcing the mandate on corporations and individuals. Second, it’s false to say corporations, like the Little Sisters, cannot be religious. Think of a corporation formed by religious whose purpose is to disseminate materials on the evils of contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services. (These exist.)
(9) If employees must pay for these expensive services, they will have less money. This is true. But it is equally true that if employers must pay for these services, they will have less money, perhaps so much less that they have to fire (or not hire) other employees. It does not follow that because an item wanted by some employees is expensive, that the employer because he has more money should be mandated to purchase the item for his employee. After all, housing and food costs more than condoms, but we do not require employers to provide them free.
(10) It’s too late. The government already passed its mandate. We’re only talking about the pernicious influence of religion and what the law should be. Circular: assumes that employers must pay because the government mandates they pay. If anything, we’re talking about pernicious effect of secularists who would prohibit free expression of religion.
On the contrary, the question seems never to have been asked, its answer assumed by those who would desire the government mandate employers provide these services. It is enough for many that the government demands it, and that some (vocal) people want to have these services without having to foot their own bills, to conclude that the mandate is valid. But every argument which asserts this is circular, as shown. Attempts to bypass the question via a shift to balancing religious over “women’s” rights are non sequiturs.
I answer that the government’s mandate is a move to ingratiate itself with a portion of the public in an effort to secure its future cooperation. This is done in two ways. The first is by appeal to emotion, e.g. promulgating a “War on women!”, and the second by disguising increased taxation. The mandate just is an indirect tax. How? Those with money, because they are “employers”, are told to surrender the money and give it to others. Only the step of first handing the monies to a bureaucrat who would then redistribute them is missing. Since the mandate is a tax, it will in general lead to a drop in employment and economic activity, as these are the effects of most taxation.
The mandate is also responsible for increased servility in the public, already at dangerous levels. People demand a thing, politicians and bureaucrats anxious for power award the thing by forcing “the rich” to provide it. People don’t care where the thing comes from, as long as it arrives. The line between business and Government blurs, and finally fades, both in the minds of the public and in reality. After all, both are the “source” which gives, gives, gives. The part of the business which remains free is seen by the public as not yet regulated and therefore to be suspected (“You didn’t build that”). Why doesn’t the government mandate employers provide meals, housing, clothing, transportation? Aren’t these more important to women’s health (men are curiously left out of these arguments) than condoms and the like?
For the public—especially women: those women will not be responsible for their own bodies and demand to suffer no consequences from being female—the only surviving argument, and a powerful one, is I want it.
Update Another popular argument, encapsulated in this headline: Andrea Mitchell Slams Hobby Lobby: ‘What Right Do They Have to Interfere With Medical Decisions by Women?’. So a woman makes a “medical decision” to engage in, say, unprotected sexual intercourse and it thus becomes somebody else’s responsibility to foot the bill for the consequences of her behavior. Not paying is “interfering.” This is obviously absurd.
SCOTUS Update The SCOTUS decision is in and, for once, it’s good news. Of a sort. Hobby Lobby won on the grounds of religious freedom, which is nice in its way. But they should have won on the grounds the government has no right to force employers to give without requiring any obligation contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services to their employees just because they are employees.
A certain segment of our population has suffered the conniption fit most glorious over the ruling (e.g. among many here and here). “Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and echoed by Nancy Pelosi. Elizabeth Warren said, “Can’t believe we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big corps deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.”
Heaven forfend any should have moral objection, vague or otherwise. Did we not know that morality is old hat? Rather, we have pride in our immorality.
Forget it. These ladies have somehow derived or discovered the heretofore unknown and preposterous fundamental right possessed of all women to be given whatever they demand merely because they demand it. What’s troubling is that their opponents in power do not deny this sexist absurdity (men are not given the equal “right”). Instead, they sheepishly point to (the true) necessity of religious freedom. “We’d force employers if we could, but First Amendment and all that. Just please don’t say we’re anti-woman!”
Which is precisely what they are saying and will say. The trouble with winning victories on the wrong grounds is that they are all too often fleeting. This SCOTUS decision is like a retreating army feeling a stand of trees to dissuade the advance of its foes. It buys some time and brings some joy, but the enemies’ arms have not been destroyed and they will soon find another path.
Until we attack the idea that the State is God, that it can give us whatever we want, “free” and as if by magic, there will be no end to this culture war. In his concurring opinion the sometime literate Justice Kennedy suggested that since religious people cannot be coerced into footing the bill of women’s proclivities, instead the government should pay. After this suggestion is accepted, thus will Hobby Lobby still foot the bill, albeit indirectly.
And thus will the government seem mightier than before. And thus will the immorality caused by these “free” “women’s health” accoutrement increase.