does reproductive freedom mean a right to free birth control? Nope:
Supporters of Obama’s birth control rule conflate liberty with subsidies, insisting that you are not really free to do something (in this case, use contraceptives) unless it’s free. According to this logic, observant Jews do not have religious freedom unless the government pays for their kosher food, bloggers do not have freedom of speech unless taxpayers buy them computers, and Americans in general do not have a right to keep and bear arms if they have to pay for guns with their own money. By contrast, the religious institutions that object to the contraceptive mandate are not asking for subsidies; they are resisting them. They object to a regulation that forces them to pay for products and services they consider immoral. They want the freedom to offer their employees health plans that do not cover contraception and sterilization. (For more on this distinction, see Sheldon Richman’s essay on negative vs. positive rights.)
What we have in this debate is a clash not between two liberty interests, but rather between two rights-claims – one negative (genuine), the other positive (counterfeit). All that is required for the exercise of a negative right (to self-ownership and, redundantly, liberty and one’s legitimately acquired belongings) is other people’s noninterference. (“When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof,” writes James A. Sadowsky, S.J.) But the fulfillment of positive rights requires that other people act affirmatively even if they don’t want to — say, by providing products or paying the bills. If one person’s freedom depends on the infringement of someone else’s freedom, the first claim is illegitimate. To hold otherwise is to reject the principle of equality.
Women have the right to contraception (and any other product) in the sense that they have a right to spend their money on it or to try to persuade someone else to do so. There can be no right to force (or have the government force) others to pay. (Aside #2: It’s curious to see feminists asking the male-dominated State for “free” birth control.)
This controversy is not about contraception. It’s about freedom versus compulsion.
As long as that bad ingredient – the principle that government may coerce people to buy things for others – is baked into the cake, it will be rotten no matter how it’s nicely decorated.
You don’t need to be a Catholic to see how dangerous such a precedent is.