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Rick Santorum: soft on contraception?
Social conservatives and libertarians have joined forces to oppose a key provision of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement that large employers provide for their employee health plans that cover contraception. There is currently a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. Social conservatives oppose the mandate and support the plaintiffs on the grounds that corporations can apparently have a religion, and that having a benefit an employee could use on birth control constitutes a violation of that corporation's religious freedom. Libertarians, meanwhile, may not have a specific moral objection to contraception, but do have an overly simplistic view of the power dynamics that govern relationships between employers and employees and assume that women who desire contraception as part of a benefits package can simply form an association at will with an employer who so provides.

The truth, of course, is that employers are not actually paying for an employee's birth control, despite what the religious right believes, and that even if they were, it is not so simple for a woman to just "pay for her own," as so many libertarian men are fond of saying. But despite the fact that contraception both saves taxpayer money and reduces abortion rates, social conservatives especially are still working to make it as unavailable as possible.

Except, strangely, for one of the most crusading, self-righteous moral conservatives of them all: Rick Santorum. More below the fold.

In a recent speech at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, the former Pennsylvania senator espoused a position that on its face is far more liberal than the birth control mandate: single-payer contraception. As reported by Elias Isquith, Santorum advocated such a notion as morally superior to the employer mandate as it currently exists.

“It would be less objectionable to me for the government to go out and say we’re going to pay for all the pharmacies to stock contraception and give them out free,” Santorum said. “Am I paying for it indirectly? Yes, through my taxes, but I pay for a lot of things with my taxes that I don’t like.”

The irony here is particularly delicious. In the same way that Republicans whipped themselves up into a frenzy about the evils of the Affordable Care Act, religious conservatives have now turned the Hobby Lobby case into a life-or-death struggle for religious freedom. The zeal has become so strong that a figure like Rick Santorum is willing to advocate for socialized birth control, in which all opponents of birth control would be forced through their tax dollars to pay for something that would violate their religious conscience, just to make sure that employers—a far more limited group—will be able to provide insurance plans that do not cover birth control.

Does that make any sense? Of course not. But what makes even less sense is Santorum's explanation for why this isn't already law:

Santorum also said that the Obama administration wasn’t as interested in providing access to contraception as it has claimed, arguing that, if it were, it would have adopted his plan. What actually motivates the administration, according to Santorum? A desire to force Christians to betray their own consciences and “bow to Caesar.”
In Santorum's worldview, Barack Obama is so sinister that his policy outcomes are not motivated by the most ideal ideological outcome, or even the pragmatism of what could get passed through Congress. No, in the feverish, deluded and conspiratorial mindset of the right, Obama and the Democrats make their decisions by whom they can oppress. And regardless of whether Santorum and his ilk are clamoring for a single-payer system now, we can all imagine what conservatives of all stripes would have said had Obama and congressional Democrats actually tried to pass single payer as the basis of health care reform.

That said, if conservatives now view single-payer health care as the one great hope that can save religious people from being oppressed, I say that we should accede to their demands as soon as humanly possible.

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