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It seems that Missouri’s Rep. Billy Long (R-7) and a group of fellow congressional freshmen gathered with reporters to warn of a grave threat to liberty: contraception. According to CNSNews.com (an entity that, incidentally, brings us the “news that the liberal media are hiding”), Long waxed uncharacteristically eloquent on the theme that when women get free contraception, “we’re still home of the brave, but we’re not the land of the free anymore”:

Long said, “America 2012.  Land of the free, home of the brave.  Are we still the land of the free and home of the brave? Let’s examine that for just a minute. I know we’re the home of the brave because if we walk off that House floor five days a week, three or four days, they’ll be a wounded warrior sitting there just like the one that was there yesterday.”

“He had no right arm, he had no left arm except for an artificial arm and an artificial hand, he was proud to shake my hand, with his artificial hand to show me how it worked,” Long said.  “He had no legs below the thighs.  His wife was standing next to him with less than a 1-year-old child in her hands.”

“You don’t have to worry about the brave,” he said. “We’re still home of the brave, but we’re not the land of the free anymore. And we need to get that straight.

“When you’re not free to practice religious freedom in this country, what in the world have we come to?” said Long. “Seriously, goodness gracious.”

Goodness gracious indeed. Where is H.L. Mencken when we need him. (Mencken did offer an apt observation about the birth control wars of his day: “It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.”)

As I indicated earlier, the occasion for this diatribe was simply the old news that under Obamacare, insurers must, starting yesterday, offer women a full range of reproductive health services. Billy and friends, of course, focused on the services CSNNews.com characterizes as “sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortifacients” – the last, of course, a bit of overreach in order to pander to those folks who think a single fertilized cell should have full human rights.

What’s actually going on here that’s got Billy so exercised?

I used to get insurance through my employer in order to take advantage of the economies of scale.  My employer paid for part of the coverage, and every year sent me a statement showing what my actual salary was when the money diverted to benefits like insurance coverage was added in. The fact that insurance paid for by employers is simply another form of income came up during the the debate over Obamacare, and centered on whether or not these diverted wages should be taxed as income.

Now, a group of Republican congressmen think that employers with certain types of religious beliefs have the right to impose those beliefs on American women and tell them what services they can and cannot purchase with the money they earn and that their employers divert from their salaries for insurance. And they call this religious freedom.

Somebody ought to break it to these folks that freedom’s a bigger issue than making political hay out of the hissy fits of our more authoritarian religious leaders. Margaret Sanger, the birth control pioneer and founder of Planned Parenthood, understood that one person’s freedom cannot be another’s subjugation:

Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers — and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it.