There is no “war on women” in America. But there absolutely is a war among women. And the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate is its biggest battlefield right now. The latest shot was fired by the National Organization for Women (NOW), who set all tact aside when they named the Little Sisters of the Poor among their “dirty 100” list for the nuns’ opposition to the mandate.
The Little Sisters run more than 200 homes for the poor and dying elderly around the world. If they are in any way dirty, it’s from combing through the streets in search of people who have been completely cast aside by society to nurture them for the last days of their lives.
While it may seem shocking that a group that purports to stand for women would attack a group of some of the world’s most loving and selfless women to gain political points, if anything, it reveals the reality proponents of the HHS mandate have been trying to cover up for the last several years: Women are loud opponents to the HHS mandate and vocal supporters of religious liberty.
Women Step Up to the Microphones
At the conclusion of the March Hobby Lobby oral arguments at the Supreme Court, it was the female co-owner of Hobby Lobby, Barbara Green, who stepped up to the microphones at the press stand to make a statement on behalf of her and her husband. And after last week’s ruling in favor of the Green family’s religious liberty, it was a female lawyer for the Becket Fund, more than half of whose staff and whose executive director is female, who kicked off the all-female press conference.
She said, “Women like Barbara Green and Elizabeth Hahn fought for their religious freedom. And today, they won. Women like the Little Sisters of the Poor will continue that fight. Women’s voices are heard, standing up for religious freedom.”
Every photo in every mainstream publication captured a sea of women cheering in delight at the ruling, with the women of the Becket Fund standing triumphant with fists raised on the steps of the High Court. Standing opposite them were women jeering with signs like “Not My Boss’ Business,” with a picture of a bedroom, the ironically paternalistic implication being that women are not bosses. War among, not on, women.
Not only were the two companies in question co-owned by women, but the next two cases coming down the pike are the Little Sisters of the Poor and Eternal Word Network Television, a Catholic television station started by a woman, Mother Angelica. Women are hugely represented among the plaintiffs that have and will continue to fight the mandate.
Female judges have been ruling in favor of halting the HHS mandate more often than not in the lower court for-profit and nonprofit cases with a couple of the important appellate-level opinions written by women. It would seem that, in addition to being bosses, women also find favor in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Religious Freedom Transcends Gender
Groups like NOW may keep on fighting to frame the HHS mandate as an issue of women’s rights, but they will be significantly frustrated by the facts. And by women. Women have been at the front and center of opposition to the HHS mandate from the get-go. We are the plaintiffs, the activists, the lawyers, and judges working to dismantle this monstrosity which threatens our First Amendment rights as outlined in the Constitution and spelled out in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that enjoyed nearly unanimous support from both sides of the aisle and was signed into law by a Democratic president.
As Becket Fund attorney Lori Windham put it on the steps of the Supreme Court, “This case is about the freedoms of all Americans, women and men, and it’s something that all Americans should celebrate today.” Religious freedom has long been an American rallying point than transcends political party, faith, or gender.
Women clearly disagree about the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case. This should not be surprising, as women don’t think as a monolith. But the cases and the pictures don’t lie. Women brought this fight as much as men, and we brought it hard, and we are going to keep bringing it. We’ve won the first round, and you can be sure that women will continue to rally around The Little Sisters of the Poor and Mother Angelica’s company and make sure that no one, even a woman, tries to say that religious liberty is not a woman’s business.