EDITORIAL: Will the Supreme Court rescue Hobby Lobby?

High court to decide whether government can force companies to pay for abortions

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Novelist Robert Heinlein once observed that the worst form of tyranny was forcing someone to pay for what he doesn’t want “merely because you think it would be good for him.” This is why so many are up in arms over the punishments Obamacare doles out to anyone who fails to purchase what President Obama says is good for them. Relief could be on the horizon, as the Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review the health care law’s most offensive dictates, the contraceptive and abortion mandates.

When the president was peddling the idea of Obamacare to Congress, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” wasn’t the only whopper told. Mr. Obama also had to placate the pro-life Democrats who were on the fence, worried that a vote for his bill would be counted as a vote for abortion. He insisted at the time that the administration would never force coverage for contraceptives and the “morning-after” abortion pills, Plan B and Ella. This was a lie.

Now the owners of private companies are being forced to participate in conduct that they find morally reprehensible — funding abortions through their employee health insurance plans. David Green, founder and CEO of the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of crafts stores, filed a lawsuit against this policy that is to be heard by the high court. “This legal challenge,” says Mr. Green, “has always remained about one thing and one thing only — the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution.”

Mr. Green won a favorable ruling from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which held the mandate violated a 1993 law providing special protections for religious expression. That ruling conflicts with Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius from the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit, which said a Mennonite-owned cabinetmaker had to bankroll abortion and contraception. The appellate split prompted the high court to accept the two cases for resolution.

The administration insists religion-affiliated nonprofits, including hospitals, charities and schools, and for-profit businesses, must pay for birth control and abortifacients because these products are “lawful and essential to women’s health.” Sen. Patty Murray takes that specious reasoning to the next level, arguing that the issue is one of equality. “Allowing a woman’s boss to call the shots about her access to birth control should be inconceivable to all Americans in this day and age,” says the Washington Democrat.

Nobody, boss or otherwise, is denying anyone’s access to these products. The argument is over whether someone has a right to force others to pay for what they want because they want it. In a free society, striking down this mandate would be a no-brainer, but Chief Justice John Roberts remains the wild card. In June 2012, he sided with the high court’s four liberals in upholding 5-to-4 the constitutionality of Obamacare based on his convoluted reasoning that the law’s unconstitutional penalty is in actuality a constitutional tax.

We may have an idea soon which direction Chief Justice Roberts is leaning, as oral arguments are likely to be heard in March, with a ruling expected near the end of the court’s term in June. Perhaps now that the chief justice has seen the havoc that his ruling is wreaking on the economy and the American people, he will be more circumspect. The court must strike down this most tyrannical of mandates.

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