Friday, February 10, 2012
Commendable Compromise or Lackluster Leadership?
After a storm of controversy, during which Fox News proclaimed "We Are All Catholics Now," President Obama announced today a "compromise plan" that will not require most religious organizations to provide contraception coverage to their own employees. Under the previous plan, most religious organizations, except churches, had to provide insurance coverage that would expressly include contraception. Almost immediately upon issuance of the interim regulations, conservative organizations and religious institutions decried the mandate as "trampling upon the free exercise of religion." While the details of the coverage and exemption are a bit technical, the rhetoric leading up to the compromise has been clear: do we protect choice, privacy, and dignity, or do we protect religious liberty. The debate touches on core fundamental commitments of American democracy.
For opponents of gridlock, the compromise seems admirable. Unlock the mere procedural compromise during the payroll tax extension--which appeared petty to many--the contraception compromise was a substantive policy compromise. But we still have to question whether this is the kind of compromise we want. Should the loudest voices prevail, or should there be basic protections for fundamental rights (either liberty or autonomy) that do not fluctuate with the changing tides of popular--or interest group--sentiment? In short, does compromise always lead to better policy?