The Sebelius Nanny State

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Celebrating the Obama administration's August 1st fiat that private companies provide free contraceptives, sterilizations, abortifacients, and STD testing for their employees, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed that this new "benefit" would give women "control over their health care."

Sebelius is too oblivious to see the irony in her Orwellian spin on the HHS mandate as evidence of a paternalistic federal government protecting women from big bad employers. How empowered could these women be if they need the federal government's nannying and dictates?

The premise of her position is bogus: no private employer impedes women's "control over their health care" by not paying for their sex lives. Only the Obama administration would be so crass as to cast the absence of free contraceptives and abortifacients as a form of oppression. Sebelius's notion of oppression is so outlandish it extends even to "transgendered" aspirants. It came out this week that ObamaCare covers men who seek to be women and women who seek to be men. HHS decreed that "sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity."

No employer is engaged in a "war on women." But the Obama administration is clearly engaged in a war on the religious. To enforce the HHS mandate, it is willing to bankrupt companies through punitive fines, forcing owners to choose between their livelihood and their faith.

The HHS mandate aims to give government, not women, control over health care. And it seeks to tighten this central planning at the expense of the employer's liberty. What gives the federal government the right to bully private employers? They are not serfs of the state. And who is Kathleen Sebelius to tell women what constitutes the health care they "need"?

She speaks of them not as empowered humans but as helpless children, who need the government to hold their hands at visits to the doctor and instruct them on what pills to take. The tone she takes is one of relentless patronizing, evident here:

When it comes to health, women are often the primary decision-maker for their families and the trusted source in circles of friends. Women often take care of their families first and put off their own health care needs. Too often, they have gone without preventive services, worrying about what even a $20 insurance copay would mean to their families' budgets and choosing to pay for groceries or rent instead.

This is nanny state liberalism at its worst. The central planners in the bowels of HHS have decided that all women should use birth control and so they deceptively define it as a "preventive service." But what disease is it preventing? Taking a healthy part of the body and deliberately rendering it sterile meets no traditional definition of "health." Fertility is not a disease, and pregnancy is not a curse.

Yet Obama and Sebelius claim to know better. They coldly speak of pregnancy as a form of punishment (Obama didn't want his daughters "punished with a baby," as he put it in 2008) and preventing it as a cost-cutting device. When Sebelius testified before Congress earlier this year, she said that the free abortifacient/contraceptive mandate would pay for itself: "The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception."

Such comments should not reassure women but frighten them. A government that relies on the utilitarian calculus of health care rationing will one day force them to use "free" contraceptives and abortifacients in order to compensate Big Brother for his largesse. What begins as a "right" under statism always ends as a duty. Sebelius is dangling before women a Faustian bargain: government-decreed goodies in exchange for their freedom.

"Women's health decisions shouldn't be made by politicians or insurance companies," she says, even as she dictates to women the contours of their health care. "Rather than wasting time refighting old political battles, this Administration is moving forward and putting women in control of their own health care. If women are going to take care of their families and friends, they have to take care of themselves."

Women were taking "care of themselves" long before the lectures and nannying of Kathleen Sebelius. What's more, it is a gross insult for Sebelius to say that the "health" of women depends upon violating the religious freedom of their employers.

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