As of August 1, the Obamacare/HHS mandate requiring the provision of contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization procedures — all in the name of “reproductive health” — is finalized. The mandate has triggered the most unexpected controversy of the 2012 election season.
The Catholic bishops of the United States and other concerned parties have accurately described it as a grave violation of religious freedom; dozens of entities have sued the Obama administration over the mandate, charging that HHS is in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; at least one federal district judge has granted injunctive relief to a petitioner in those suits; more suits and more decisions are expected. More broadly, an array of commentators have seen in the HHS mandate a quintessential expression of the administration’s disdain for the institutions of civil society, which it seems to regard as merely the vehicles for the delivery of “services” the government decides to provide, rather than as associations with their own inherent integrity and their own unique role in democratic public life.
Where stands this argument after seven months, and with the mandate now legally in force? And where is all this likely to go in the months and years ahead?