Universal access to contraception is, or should be, as much a part of basic health care as routine inoculations, antibiotics and blood transfusions. Those who object to that concept do not stand up for freedom of conscience so much as they demonstrate just how removed they are from the real world.
But because Republicans in Congress smell a good wedge issue, and because the American Catholic hierarchy is perceived to be politically powerful, the Obama administration last week was forced to do an embarrassing dodge and weave on its rules for how contraception will be covered by all employer-provided health care plans under the new Affordable Care Act.
The religious issue has been the focus of news coverage and commentary. But the real lesson to be drawn here is that this nation's unique mistake of tying health care to employment remains a bad idea and why real health reform won't come without a progression to single-payer, or at least a robust public option. If we had made that decision when the rest of the civilized world did, or when the issue was last before the Congress, this whole fuss would have been avoided.