The Trump administration acted on Friday, Oct. 13, to dismiss Obama-era regulations that compelled religious citizens at the point of government gun to pay for their employees’ birth control. It was always a bizarre idea; former President Obama’s administration famously fought tooth and nail to cudgel a group of nuns called The Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for sterilization, abortifacient chemical contraception and other forms of birth control that openly violate 2,000+ years of Church teaching. It was always justified under the broad umbrella of sacrosanct notions of “women’s health”: an ever-expanding amalgam of euphemistic procedures that run the gamut from completely legitimate health services to third-trimester abortions. It’s a basket of goods you must accept en masse lest you end up deemed a misogynist — either you accept that a mammogram is morally equivalent to abortifacient contraceptives or you’re a sexist pig.
It’s a win for the rights of the individual, whose refusal to act as automatons on behalf of the pet issue of a past administration is a sincere expression of their rights as religious Americans. Americans don’t cede their rights guaranteed by God and enshrined in the Constitution just because they happen to be executives at a company or nonprofit. And, certainly, subsidizing the sexual escapades of employees is not a policy solution naturally derived from constitutional bases.
Of course some women use birth control for other medicinal purposes. But the “negative rights” enshrined in our founding — that is, your right to individual freedoms absent government coercion — have always taken primacy over so-called “positive rights.” These can be likened to the ones one finds in the South African constitution, where food and housing are “guaranteed” to citizens, even if, as South Africa so intimately knows, codifying such a “guarantee” into law doesn’t magically yield its fulfillment.
The absence of progressive trust in localism and federalism as a force for resolving thorny issues of conscience has helped to erode the middle ground on this issue. Because to the progressive it is unacceptable that some states like Vermont long for single-payer while Texas prefers privatized care, a centralized, unilateral step “had” to be taken, and Obamacare’s myriad rules and regulations were a natural outgrowth of trying to nationalize an industry through the back door. National healthcare has long been a dream of congressional Democrats and progressive thought leaders, and in such systems the rights and liberties of the individual always seem to lose out to concerns about the “collective” and the “State.” Trump, in a small way, returned power back to individual consciences in keeping with the American tradition, and freedom-loving Americans ought to commend him for it.